Oxygen shortage, crematoriums swamped in Myanmar as Covid-19 infections swell

YANGON, 14 July 2021:

Crematoriums in Rangoon, Myanmar’s largest city, are being overwhelmed by the increase in deaths from Covid-19 – amid the saturation of the health system due to the serious wave of the pandemic, local media reported today.

Long lines of corpses waiting to be buried or cremated fill cemeteries of the former capital, media such as Myanmar Now and Irrawaddy reported.

“They died from lack of oxygen,” said a charity worker, adding that 50 bodies were taken yesterday to the cemetery.

The spokesperson for another funerary NGO said they normally handle the preparations for 20 to 25 bodies, a number that has doubled to 45 or 50 following the rapid increase in cases since last month – due to the spread of the delta variant, the most contagious and deadly yet.

In the media and social networks, many said Covid-19 patients are being turned back from hospitals and that it is very difficult to find oxygen to treat the sick at home.

The military junta, which took power after the coup on Feb 1, has denied there is a shortage of oxygen and ordered manufacturers to supply cylinders exclusively to government hospitals and centres.

“Many are criticising oxygen recently. Actually there is enough oxygen,” coupmaker general Min Aung Hlaing said Saturday, according to state newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar.

He added that there are people who are spreading false rumours to hoard oxygen cylinders and enrich themselves by selling them at high prices.

Min Aung Hlaing said his government paid US$75 million to India for 30 million Covid-19 vaccines, but have only received two million so far due to delays, while they soon expect to receive another two million donated by China.

According to the website “Our World in Data,” only 3.4% of the Myanmar population has received at least one dose of the vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

The pandemic in Myanmar, which had been largely unaffected until now, has spread to almost 90% of the country’s 330 municipalities.

Authorities yesterday registered 4,047 new cases and 100 deaths, bringing the total number to 201,274 infections and 4,036 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

On Monday, the junta ordered the confinement of half of the Yangon region, a measure previously implemented in Mandalay and part of Bago, two other important cities in the country.

Despite the strict confinements, protests in rejection of the military junta continue throughout the country, while the general strike by thousands of doctors and health workers in defiance of the military regime continues.