The scenes in Myanmar, where coronavirus cases are rising rapidly, are reminiscent of Covid-19 surges in India and Indonesia, with hospitals turning away the sick and bodies piling up at crematoriums.
But health experts on the ground warn that Myanmar is far more vulnerable because its already weak healthcare system has been decimated in the aftermath of a February military coup.
The civilian officials who led the pandemic response are in prison. Doctors and nurses on the front line of a civil-disobedience movement refuse to staff government-run hospitals or accept vaccines provided by the junta. Medical professionals who volunteer on nongovernmental response teams are at risk of arrest.
At the same time, the chaos caused by the coup has created conditions ripe for contagion. Thousands of people have been packed into prisons where the virus has been detected. At least one senior member of the ousted ruling party died after becoming infected in prison, the party said.
Some people so distrust the regime that they don’t seek treatment. Many die at home without a diagnosis, uncounted in official tallies.