Myanmar's COVID crisis escalates at alarming speed

Queues for oxygen cylinders in Myanmar are a stark reminder of a worsening COVID-19 crisis there.

Myanmar is in the midst of its most serious wave of infections to date, with efforts to manage it hampered by nationwide chaos after the military coup.

The junta said it had restricted supplies to individuals to avoid hoarding, rejecting accusations of trying to monopolise them.

Some residents who spoke to Reuters said they are choosing to hole up in a room in their home, rather than enter a quarantine centre, a decision based on mistrust of the military healthcare system.

Hospitals were under intense pressure even before the recent outbreak, with some reporting most of their medics had joined the anti-junta Civil Disobedience Movement, striking in response to the military coup.

In contrast, the ousted civilian government appeared to have had more success when the pandemic hit last year.

People's willingness to submit to testing, tracking and isolation helped to lower transmission rates.

A spokesman for the military authorities said they were doing all they could and appealed for cooperation.

One of the responses from the military has been opening military hospitals to the public, and to step up services there.

On Monday, daily cases topped 5,000 for the first time - more than double the highest figure last year.

More than a third of COVID-19 tests were positive, a figure doctors say points to the outbreak being far more widespread than the official testing numbers indicate.

Meanwhile, the military government said on Monday that vaccinations would now be stepped up, partly with help from its biggest foreign ally, Russia.

Russia is among the few countries that have openly embraced the military government, which has been condemned globally over the coup and the deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.