Myanmar Struggles to Contain COVID Outbreak

Myanmar is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases prompting a shortage of oxygen supplies that COVID-19 patients desperately need, officials say.

“Oxygen is scarcer than money,” Soe Win, a resident of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, told the Associated Press. He stood in line for six hours in an attempt to secure oxygen for his ailing grandmother, who is suffering with symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The Health Ministry on Saturday reported a record 4,377 new confirmed cases for a total of 188,752. Vaccination information is not clear, but it appears 3.2% of the country’s 55 million people have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to The Associated Press.

Last year, the country was able to keep the COVID-19 outbreak under control with strict restrictions imposed by civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, plus the use of vaccines from India and China.

However, Suu Kyi was ousted in February by the military, and since then people have been reluctant to go to military hospitals. In addition, after Suu Kyi’s ouster, medical professionals were a big component of the country’s civil disobedience movement that urged people not to entrust their care in the hands of the unpopular government.

In neighboring Bangladesh, the country set a record Thursday for new infections and on Friday set a record for deaths from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

However, the government’s Directorate General of Health Services said Sunday that 230 people had died, surpassing Friday’s 212. The South Asian country of 160 million people has confirmed more than 1 million cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

To combat the surge, Bangladesh has been on lockdown since the beginning of the month.

South Africa is also in a lockdown as it attempts a fresh push in its vaccination campaign amid a new surge of the virus.

Just more than 2% of South Africans are fully vaccinated as of Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins.

As much of the world struggles to vaccinate their populations, Pfizer, the biopharmaceutical company that makes one of the vaccines, says it is time to consider a booster shot to protect against the more contagious variants of the coronavirus. But U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Drug Administration said Friday they don’t believe Americans need another shot yet.

Pfizer said that some of its representatives would meet with officials at the FDA on Monday. The company had said recently that booster shots would be needed within the next 12 months.

Dr. Anthony Fauci acknowledged that booster shots may be needed but said Sunday that it was too soon for the government to recommend another shot. Roughly half of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated.

On Sunday, Australia announced its first coronavirus-related death for 2021 and 77 new COVID-19 cases in New South Wales. Officials did not identify the woman who died, only describing her as in her 90s. Authorities said she died Saturday just hours after she was diagnosed with a locally acquired case of COVID-19.

AAustralia has been largely successful in containing the spread of COVID-19 thanks to aggressive lockdown efforts, posting just 31,103 total confirmed cases and 911 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.

However, it has proved vulnerable to fresh outbreaks because of a slow rollout of its vaccination campaign and confusing requirements involving the two-shot AstraZeneca vaccine, which is the dominant vaccine in its stockpile.

In Belgium, researchers on Sunday described the rare case of a 90-year-old woman who was stricken with both the alpha and beta variants of the coronavirus. The woman died in March.

“This is one of the first documented cases of co-infection with two worrying variants of SARS-CoV-2,” molecular biologist and study author Anne Vankeerberghen said, according to the AFP report.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several Indian states have announced proposals to help children left orphaned during the coronavirus pandemic. The plans include monthly stipends for the children, as well as funds set up for the children’s education and health care.

India reported more than 41,000 new COVID-19 cases Sunday. During the pandemic, India has recorded 30.8 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 408,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins. The U.S. leads the world in number of infections, with 33.8 million, and COVID-19-related deaths, with 607,132.

Source: Voice of America

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