On Wednesday August 26, Myanmar extended the blockade in conflict-torn Rakhine state to cover four other cities, disrupting the movement of around 1 million people as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise. 70 new infections have been confirmed across Myanmar in the past 24 hours – bringing the total to 574 – with the northwestern state recording the majority. Rakhine is one of the poorest states in the country, with below-average health facilities and a lack of access to education in some remote areas. It is also home to some 130,000 Rohingya Muslims who have been displaced by the conflict and locked up in camps in what Amnesty International calls “apartheid” conditions. Another 150,000 refugees from Rakhine have dispersed across the state after fleeing clashes between the army and Rakhine rebels in Myanmar.
Myanmar Starting To Lockdown Schools As Prevention
Myanmar ordered all schools closed after Wednesday’s figures, the biggest daily increase in infections. “We called all schools and ordered them to close from tomorrow,” Ko Layy Win, director general of the country’s primary education department. The state capital, Sittwe, has been stranded and covered by a curfew since the weekend and on Wednesday the order was extended to four other towns: Kyaukphyu, An, Taungup and Thandwe. “The residents of the four small towns … can only stay at home,” the order published in the state newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar said, adding that only official vehicles were allowed to provide transport.
Exceptions include government officials and factory workers, and only one member of each family can shop for basic necessities. The sharp rise in coronavirus cases comes as the country prepares for elections, raising fears that the November 8 poll will be affected. Rakhine State has long been a hotspot of ethnic and religious conflict. Sittwe is home to more than 318,000 Rakhine residents, while the four towns stranded on Wednesday have around 560,000 residents, mostly Rakhine residents, according to the 2014 census. But what is not yet known are the many marginalized Rohingya Muslims living in slums near Sittwe who have long fought for recognition and basic rights such as access to health care.
Further north of the state, the military are fighting against the Arakan army, a rebel group seeking greater autonomy for Rakhine Buddhists, and violent clashes have left tens of thousands of civilians languishing in camps in refugees. The United Nations announced on Wednesday that some staff working in the fields and around Rakhine have tested positive for the virus. The staff “expressed solidarity with the Rakhine people and all those affected by COVID-19, a common enemy that does not distinguish between ethnic groups or religions,” the United Nations said. However, some local residents, such as the resident of Maung Than Tin, still have doubts about the rapid spread of the disease in remote areas.