Story of Family of COVID-19 Patients Who Lost Father to Epidemic Grips Myanmar

myanmar-bago-administrator-coffin-apr8-2020.jpg Funeral workers in protective gear transport the casket of Myanmar's confirmed coronavirus case No. 17, who died in Pyay township, central Myanmar's Bago region, April 7, 2020.
RFA video screenshot

He was known in Myanmar as coronavirus patient No. 17.

The township administrator, married to a nurse, became a tragic headline that captivated the Southeast Asian nation once known as Burma after he died Wednesday of the contagious virus, officially known as COVID-19.

He caught the virus from his wife, a nurse who works at an international medical center in the commercial capital Yangon, and who is known as coronavirus patient No. 15.

After she became ill, the administrator on March 26 took their eight-year-old daughter, 10-year-old son, and an 18-year-old niece who lived with them from their home in Yangon’s Bahan township to Paukkhaung township in Bago region, where he worked.

Five days later, his wife tested position for the virus. As authorities tracked down everyone the nurse had come into contact with, her husband and the three children were confirmed as COVID-19 positive.

The husband, whose name also has not been released, had been in serious condition and died after being treated for two days in the Intensive Care Unit at Pyay General Hospital. His funeral was held at Nyein Ayeyar Cemetery in Pyay, but none of his immediate family members who are all in the hospital could attend.

“His ashes were buried in the Christian quarters of the interdenominational cemetery,” said Soe Moe Naing, chairman of Moe Myittar Free Funeral Service Association who arranged for the body to be cremated Wednesday morning.

“His family members held a customary Christian wake this morning,” he said. “We have quarantined two volunteers from our association and a staff member from the crematorium.”

The man’s wife requested that photos be taken during the funeral since she and the children could not attend.

Dr. Khin Soe Soe Kyi, a lawmaker who represents the Pyay township constituency in Bago region, where the children were first admitted to the hospital, said Thursday that the three are in good condition.

“The two children have no fever,” she said. “They don’t have any coughing, sore throats, or fatigue.”

The niece had a mild fever two days ago, but has since recovered, she said.

“Now, all three of them are in good condition,” Khin Soe Soe Kyi added.

Aung San Suu Kyi's promise

Following her husband's death, the woman, whose name has not been publicly released, appealed to State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi to send the children back to Yangon to live with her while she is being treated at Waibargi Hospital, a  medical institution that specializes in infectious diseases.

“Now that the father has passed away, she is concerned about her son, daughter, and niece, who had been admitted to Pyay Hospital,” said Khin Soe Soe Kyi.

“The mother, who has been admitted to Waibargi Hospital, is worried about the children, so the authorities agreed to send them to Waibargi Hospital yesterday evening,” she added.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader and chairwoman of the national-level Central Committee on Prevention, Control, and Treatment of Coronavrius Disease 2019, said during a live video conference Wednesday that the state would take care of the surviving family members.

“I feel sorry for the man who lost his life in Pyay Hospital,” she said. “Losing one person is also a loss for everyone. We feel sorry, but having sorrow alone is not enough. We have our responsibility. We must try not to make the situation worse.”

“The state will fully look after his surviving family members. It is the state’s duty,” Aung San Suu Kyi added.

As of April 9, Myanmar registered 23 confirmed coronavirus cases and three fatalities, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports.

Reported by Phyu Phyu Khine for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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