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Myanmar Faces Squeeze on Hospitals, Basics as Virus Arrives

  • Quotas, price controls key to make food available, affordable
  • Central bank cuts policy rate to 8.5%, border rules tightened
A woman walks on a footbridge in Yangon on March 17.

A woman walks on a footbridge in Yangon on March 17.

Photographer: Ye Aung Thu/AFP via Getty Images
Updated on

Myanmar, which shares borders with China, India, Thailand, Bangladesh and Laos, is facing the reality of the novel coronavirus, after the government officially confirmed the first two cases of Covid-19 late Monday.

That means making sure its 54 million people can access basic food and supplies while implementing measures to slow spreading, experts say.

It won’t be easy. Myanmar’s health-care system is far from developed and “the coronavirus pandemic is expected to put significant pressure on Myanmar’s medical facilities,” the U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a statement advising its nationals to leave the country. “They may not be able to offer routine care.”

Myanmar confirmed on Wednesday a third coronavirus case, a 26-year-old local who returned from the U.K. on March 21. The man tested positive while under quarantine at the Insein Public Hospital in Yangon, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports.

Myanmar’s gross domestic product was $71 billion in 2018, about one-seventh of nearby Thailand’s, which has 69 million people.