Myanmar Minister for Health and Sports, Dr Myint Htwe, yesterday (Feb 16) met with the 59 Burmese students and officials repatriated from the coronavirus hot zone of Wuhan as they completed their 14-day quarantine and prepared to return to their homes.
Speaking at the Kandawnadi Hospital in Mandalay, Dr Myint Htwe said that medical authorities had confirmed that those brought home on a ‘mercy evacuation flight’ on February 2 had passed a battery of health tests and examinations aimed at minimising the risk of any transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Addressing the evacuees the minister urged them to adhere to instructions provided by the ministry and to immediately contact the health department should they start feeling unwell.
The mission to evacuate the students was implemented on orders of the State after the students took to social media pleading to be brought home amid dwindling food supplies in the SARS-CoV-2 epicentre.
“A detailed plan to evacuate you was drawn in cooperation with related ministries”, Dr Myint Htwe told the students on Sunday, praising all those involved in the successful mission.
While it was celebrations all round by those who had managed to avoid the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the celebrations remained somewhat sombre.
Thousands of illegal Burmese workers remain
Since the mercy flight returned to Myanmar there has been no word from Chinese authorities on the fate of two others in Wuhan who were reportedly sick and undergoing treatment, or a third who was unable to join the flight because he had “defied China’s immigration regulations” (a prisoner).
He apparently is not alone. Last Friday Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that thousands of Myanmar undocumented migrant workers “are stuck in and around the Chinese city of Wuhan”.
According to Soe Pyae Win, deputy secretary of the Myanmar Embassy in Beijing, Chinese police are not looking to arrest the undocumented workers, but rather obtain information they need to assist them. The illegal workers, however, do not believe the Chinese authorities.
Myanmar is reportedly on full alert for for the SARS-COV-2 virus, intensifying surveillance measures in airports, seaports, and land border crossings in a bid to prevent any local contagion.
On January 31, health authorities quarantined a Chinese national suspected of suffering from Covid-19 in the first case reported in the country.
The 56-year-old victim arrived at the Yangon International Airport onboard a China Southern Airlines (CSA) flight carrying 79 passengers, from Guangzhou. Authorities said yesterday (Feb 16) that the man tested negative for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Wuhan’s trapped foreign students
While many countries have airlifted their citizens from the virus hot zone, students and nationals from other countries including Cambodia, Pakistan, and Nigeria remain.
On January 30 Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen rejected the pleas by 20 Khmer students in Wuhan to be taken home, claiming such actions would pose a risk to China-Cambodia bilateral ties.
The PM doubled-down on leaving the students there by also declaring that the country will not suspend flights to or from China.
In the ultimate act of enthusiastically embracing China, and the USA at the same time, Cambodia on Friday allowed the pariah vessel MS Westerdam to berth after it had been refused by five other countries.
One passenger from the ship has so far tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 while some 1,000 other passengers have commenced their journey home.
The decision has been labelled as a “turning point” by Dr William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, USA.
Speaking with the The New York Times, Dr Schaffner said that the decision by Cambodia, which drew praise from US President Donald Trump, may make it harder than ever to keep the coronavirus outbreak contained to China.
In not totalling abandoning its students the Cambodian government is providing those in Wuhan with a $500 per month per diam while the city is in lockdown. Cambodian consular officials have been told to provide as much assistance as possible.
Pakistan, Ghana, Nigeria: trade ties before citizens safety
There has been no such support by the government’s of Pakistan, Ghana, or Nigeria though, whose students are pleading for immediate evacuation home.
Rather than focus on the safety of their citizens all three, along with Cambodia, have been accused of putting their trade ties with China before citizen’s health and safety.
In Pakistan the parents of students trapped in the SARS-CoV-2 hot zone have protested on the streets of Karachi, while African students have taken to social media to highlight their plight. All say that they are not receiving any consular assistance from their respective government’s.
There are COVID-2019 cases in 29 countries and territories around the world and one international conveyance (the MS Diamond Princess).
According to official figures, which many regard as failing to reflect the full scale of the outbreak, more than 1,770 people have died and 17,300 people confirmed infected since the outbreak was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 31 last year. Only 11,400 people are reported to have recovered.
Feature video FarAway Lands by William Saw
Feature image Myanmar Ministry of Information
- Students from Wuhan discharged after 2-week quarantine (Ministry of Information)
- Stranded in Wuhan: Foreigners raise call for help in virus epicentre (CNA)
- Myanmar Evacuates 59 Students From Virus-Hit Wuhan, China (The Irrawaddy)
Between November 2010 and February 2012 she was a staff writer at Daylight Online, Nigeria writing on health, fashion, and relationships. From 2010 – 2017 she worked as a freelance screen writer for ‘Nollywood’, Nigeria.
She joined AEC News Today in December 2016.