Myanmar ordered all the schools for closing after confirming 70 new cases of coronavirus or COVID-19 on Wednesday, its highest daily, as the authorities try to tackle a resurgence of the virus after weeks without confirmed domestic spread.
All but one of the fresh cases that were announced on Wednesday were in Rakhine, found in nine different places, each linked to a virus outbreak in the state capital Sittwe, where a lockdown and curfew got imposed last week.
Myanmar's outbreaks have been relatively small compared with other countries in the region, with just six deaths and 574 infections in total, but an increase in COVID-19 cases by nearly 35% in just over a week is causing some concern.
COVID-19 in Myanmar
"We have called all the schools and instructed them to close from tomorrow," Ko Layy Win, director general of the country's Department of Basic Education, told Reuters. "The central committee of COVID decided to do that since the local transmission in the country is high." One of Wednesday's cases was in the biggest city Yangon, in an individual seeking medical clearance to travel.
The virus resurfaced in Myanmar on August 16 after a month without community transmission, with the majority of those cases in Sittwe. Sittwe is also home to crowded camps where about 100,000 Rohingya Muslims have been confined since violence erupted in 2012. Rohingya mostly face strict curbs on freedom of movement and access to healthcare.
Myanmar has restricted internet access in much of the region on security grounds. Humanitarian workers have urged the authorities to restore it at higher speeds to ensure reliable health information is available. Among the 179 domestic infections since early last week, authorities have detected a mutation thought to be more contagious than previously seen in Myanmar. To keep COVID-19 at bay, Myanmar has since late March closed its borders to all but returning citizens, who are required to undergo quarantine.
(With agency inputs)