Bishop of Pathein dies from COVID-19

Bishop John Hsane Hgyi died from the virus. Yesterday more than 6,000 cases were reported, but doctors claim that the number is much higher. Local dioceses set up hospitals. The junta released some prisoners to limit the spread of the coronavirus in overcrowded prisons, but some activists see it as a ploy to make space for political opponents.


Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Bishop John Hsane Hgyi of Pathein, southern Myanmar, has died, Fr Florence Aung Kyaw Oo, chancellor of the diocese, reported, cited by Radio Veritas Asia.

“We are all saddened and shocked by the news of our father bishop’s return to the eternal home,” said the clergyman in a message of condolences.

Appointed bishop of Pathein in 2003, the 68-year-old prelate suffered from diabetes and contracted SARS-CoV-2 earlier this week.

Meanwhile, some 247 coronavirus-related deaths were reported today. More than 6,000 new cases were yesterday, according to official data. Myanmar doctors claim however that the government's numbers are lower than the actual figures.

The extent of the pandemic is difficult to measure since only 12,000 to 15,000 people are tested every day, health officials note.

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) recently included Myanmar among the countries with the highest level of danger with regard to the spread of the virus.

In order to limit the rising number of cases, Myanmar authorities banned travel from one village to another.

Yesterday, the ruling military junta announced that some prisoners jailed before February would be released to prevent the virus from spreading in overcrowded prisons.

The military did not provide further details regarding the release, but according to Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), this could be a ploy against the opposition.

“It makes me think that they are creating more space within the prisons so that they can detain more political activists opposing them,” an AAPP official told Myanmar Now.

For their part, Catholic hospitals are gearing up to receive patients unable to find a place in public health facilities.

Less serious patients are being turned away, and most people are forced to seek treatment at home and obtain medicines and oxygen supplies on their own.

In the Diocese of Loikaw (Kayah State), a small clinic run by Caritas within the cathedral complex has been converted into a field hospital.

“Surgeons, doctors, nurses, health service technicians, volunteers and religious offer their free help,” said Father Ba Shwe, apostolic administrator of the diocese.

After the military coup on 1 February, several doctors joined the civil disobedience movement, refusing to work in military-controlled hospitals.

A doctor who spoke to Radio Free Asia on condition of anonymity said the situation is set to get worse because the health system has collapsed.

“[V]ery few health workers [. . .] will continue to work in the health sector,” she said. “If it goes on like this, if left unmanaged, a very worrisome situation will arise.”