Myanmar junta denies medical treatment to prisoners sick with COVID-19

Obo Jail in Mandalay.

By The Irrawaddy March 8, 2022

Sick people showing symptoms of COVID-19 in Mandalay’s Obo prison are being denied medical treatment, according to relatives and people who help political prisoners.

“Prisoners are only isolated when they are suspected of having contracted COVID-19. They receive no medical treatment. There may also be cases of seasonal flu due to a change in the weather. But based on their symptoms, I guess they have COVID-19,” said a person who helps political prisoners.

More than 300 inmates, including political prisoners, are sick in Obo prison with common symptoms of COVID-19 such as sore throat, cough, muscle aches, runny nose and high fever, he said. .

“There were suspected COVID-19 deaths in prisons during the second wave of coronavirus, but autopsies were barely conducted to find out the causes of death,” he added.

Some prison staff have also been infected with COVID-19 and are also not receiving medical care despite experiencing severe symptoms, according to relatives of prison staff.

A prison staff member at Obo prison who asked to remain anonymous said: ‘Many people are showing symptoms of COVID-19 [in Obo Prison]. Far from receiving COVID-19 tests, many are not even receiving paracetamol. There are also coronavirus infections among staff families. But staff are not entitled to leave and therefore cannot self-isolate. »

Prisoners also do not receive proper food in prison, he added. “It’s not bad for detainees who regularly receive visits from their relatives [who bring them food]. But things are difficult for those who don’t have visitors,” the prison staff member said.

A lawyer from Mandalay said: “I have heard that people are suffering from flu symptoms in prison. Hearings for some political detainees have had to be postponed because they are ill.

Prison authorities played down the situation when asked by The Irrawaddy about reports of COVID-19 infections in Obo prison, saying there are no coronavirus infections and that the cases are just seasonal flu.

A family member of a prisoner imprisoned for taking part in anti-coup protests said: “I don’t know exactly what is going on inside the prison because relatives are not allowed to meet the prisoners in person. But they asked us to bring painkillers like paracetamol, as well as antifungal cream. We can only send these things through prison staff. Prison staff say they are healthy and good.

Male prisoners at Dawei prison in Tanintharyi region are also reportedly sick with symptoms of COVID-19 and running out of medicine. Coronavirus infections have also been reported at Monywa prison in Sagaing region.

According to Department of Corrections guidelines, up to 10,000 inmates are normally held in central-level prisons. There are normally 7,000 prisoners in Obo prison, which is a central level prison.

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