Myanmar diocese sets new guidelines for burial as COVID-19 cases continue to rise

Myanmar's health ministry reported 1,225 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the highest daily total since mid-December

The Diocese of Kalay in Myanmar has announced new guidelines for the burial of COVID-19 victims following the death of two Catholic priests in the past week due to the disease.

The diocese announced that priests will be blessing those who died of COVID-19 only in cemeteries.

“For the funeral services during this current situation, clergies will not go to the funeral houses but will be waiting at the cemetery,” read the announcement issued by the diocese.

The priests will be waiting at the cemetery to pray and bless the remains of those who departed.

The decision was made to prevent the possible spread of the virus. The new arrangement took effect on Sunday, June 27, and will be effective until further notice.

On Monday, Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi sent a message to the people from detention urging them to be more careful of COVID-19.

Myanmar’s health system and its anti-coronavirus campaign have foundered since the military coup on February 1, with many health workers stopping work in protest against the junta.

The junta-controlled health ministry reported 1,225 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the highest daily total since mid-December, when Suu Kyi’s government brought the last big wave of infections under control.

The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar on Monday published 12 points of advice from the ministry on preventing the coronavirus. It urged everyone to comply.

Some health experts say the real rate of infections is likely to be much higher than that indicated by the official figures, because testing collapsed after the coup.

Testing in the past week averaged around 5,500 tests a day compared to more than 17,000 a day in the week before the coup.

The rate of positive tests rose to nearly 19 percent on Monday — a much higher rate than before the coup and not far from its peak in October 2020.

Two Catholic priests in the Diocese of Kalay died of COVID-19 in the past week.

The priests were Father Florian Zam Khaw Kam, 48, and Father Timothy Thang Do Cin, 52. They were the first Catholic priests who died of the disease in the country.

Father Timothy, parish priest of Sawbua Yeshan, died on June 14 at the Diocesan Pastoral Centre in the city of Kalay.

Father Florian, parish priest of Suangpi in Tedim Township, died on June 24 at the Civil Hospital in Tedim Myo.

The Diocese of Kalay, which has 25 parishes served by 58 priests, has a population oof 974,983, with 56,048 Catholics. – with a report from Reuters and Raymond Kyaw Aung of Radio Veritas Asia

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