Myanmar's Suu Kyi warns on COVID-19 as cases spike

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi visits a hospital where medical workers receive AstraZeneca's COVISHIELD coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, after the country received 1.5 million doses of the vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, January 27, 2021. REUTERS/Thar Byaw

June 28 (Reuters) - Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi sent a message to the people from detention on Monday urging them to be more careful of COVID-19, her lawyers said, as the number of daily cases hit the highest since mid-December.

Myanmar's health system and its anti-coronavirus campaign have foundered since Suu Kyi's government was overthrown on Feb. 1, with many health workers stopping work in protest against the junta.

Lawyer Min Min Soe said Suu Kyi had asked about the coronavirus situation when she appeared in court on Monday. Charges against her include breaking coronavirus protocols. Her supporters say they are politically motivated.

"She told the lawyers to be careful of COVID-19, reminding us to wash our hands and wear masks," Min Min Soe said. "She also asked to send the same message to the people to be more cautious of COVID-19."

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.

Reuters was unable to reach the health ministry for comment on Suu Kyi's message.

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.

Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Mike Collett-White

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