Another Catholic priest in Myanmar’s Diocese of Kalay died of COVID-19 on Tuesday, June 29, a week after two other priests from the same diocese succumbed to the disease.
The death of Monsignor Martin Suan Khan Mung, vicar general of the diocese, came as independent media reports said nearly 200 people in Kalay are believed to have died of COVID-19 in June alone.
A report from Radio Free Asia said Myanmar’s efforts to contain the pandemic were dealt a substantial blow when the military orchestrated a coup d’état in February.
As of Tuesday, Myanmar had confirmed a total of 155,697 COVID-19 cases and recorded at least 3,320 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports.
In Kalay township, which has a population of about 400,000 people, about 181 deaths have been reported in recent months.
Of the 181 deaths, 51 were confirmed to have been infected with COVID-19 at area hospitals, while the remaining 130 died at home after exhibiting symptoms of the disease.
“[COVID-19] deaths at home are more common … There aren’t enough doctors and nurses or oxygen at the hospitals—that’s why people want to treat their sick at home,” a source told RFA.
“We consider everyone who dies outside of the hospitals a suspect COVID case. If you look at the family members of the deceased, two or three of them tend to be infected.”
A township elder told RFA that funerals for COVID-19 victims are being “held daily” in Kalay and that this week marked the worst day for COVID-19 deaths in the township with 20 in a single day.
“These days there are funeral wakes in almost every ward,” he said. “It is everywhere.”
Monsignor Martin Suan Khan Mung was buried on the same day he died at St. Theresa Parish in Tahan, where he served as parish priest.
Father Martin was born on April 12, 1958, and was ordained priest on March 23, 1985.
Last week, two Catholic priests also died in the Diocese of Kalay.
The priests were identified as Father Florian Zam Khaw Kam, 48, and Father Timothy Thang Do Cin, 52. They were the first Catholic priests who died of COVID-19 in Myanmar.
Father Florian was parish priest of Suangpi in Tedim Township. He died on June 24 at the Civil Hospital in Tedim Myo. The priest has been suffering from lung problems even before the pandemic.
Father Timothy, meanwhile, was parish priest of Sawbua Yeshan. He died on June 14 at the Diocesan Pastoral Centre in Kalaymyo.
His family said the priest had high blood pressure and was suffering from diabetes.
The two priests were laid to rest in their respective parishes on Friday, June 25.
Residents told RFA that the latest coronavirus outbreak in Kalay began in the third week of May and is believed to have made its way to the area via workers from neighboring Chin state. – with reports from Radio Free Asia and Radio Veritas Asia