State Counsellor discusses preparations made for mobilizing volunteers

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Chairperson of the National-Level Central Committee on Prevention, Control and Treatment of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), held a videoconference yesterday about preparations made to mobilize volunteers from the conference room of the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw.

Those who participated in the discussions were Secretary of the National Volunteers Steering Unit, Dr Win Myat Aye, Union Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, Ma Aye Myat Mon Moe, a member of the volunteer group from Pathein Township and chairperson of the Youth Affairs Committee, and Kayah State Minister for Development and Social Affairs Dr Aung Kyaw Htay who is managing and organizing the volunteers.

The State Counsellor began the discussions by saying that there were not enough health-care workers in conducting COVID-19 prevention and control activities; this was especially because the number of people being kept in quarantine centres was quite large, hence the need to place special reliance on the help of volunteers; as more than one thousand returnees were coming in daily through borders, in the long run this number would become quite large; in quite a number of countries there were no facility quarantines; even rich countries insist on home quarantines; it was thought that in home quarantines infections can spread quickly and hence quite dangerous; and that it was safer for the people to have facility quarantines and this was the reason for having facility quarantines; in making such arrangements there were not enough healthcare workers and this was the reason for collaborating with volunteers; volunteers had been helping right from the beginning; after some time they become tired; lack of proper support equipment and lack of help and support led to the realization that there should be support from the Union Government; this was the reason why a volunteers cooperation programme was initiated.

Union Minister Dr Win Myat Aye discussed the need for assistance from the Union Government for the volunteers to enable them to work in the long term; a mechanism was needed to enable them to perform part-time services; the need for public participation in COVID-19 control measures; arrangements made for volunteers such as accommodation, transportation, rest, systematic participation in safety, and training programmes; the need for the Union Government to give recognition to the volunteers for their contributions; how training programmes were conducted for them; the formation of volunteer support groups in respective townships, and how volunteers have been systematically assigned to perform their duties in shifts at the quarantine centres.

Ma Aye Myat Mon Moe recounted her experiences as a volunteer at a facility quarantine centre and her worries about this work; difficulties of volunteers about meals and living inside the quarantine centre, problems in helping the quarantined persons, the existing number of PUI at the facilities quarantine in Pathein Township, preparations for more returnees, the needs for conducting capacity-building course online and other requirements.

Minister Dr Aung Kyaw Htay presented the situation regarding thet compilation of the list volunteers in Kayah State; arrangements made for quarantined persons at the community-based facilities quarantine centres; and services being provided by volunteers at the fever clinics.

The State Counsellor gave comments and advice in order to ensure coordination and made her concluding remarks. She said that the health workers and volunteers faced the maximum exposure; making sure that quarantined persons were free from mental stress was an honourable task; necessary instructions would be given to the Ministry of Health and Sports to provide protective equipment and materials to the volunteers; special measures would be taken to ensure that all the needs of the quarantine centres were supplied and fulfilled; action would be undertaken to provide online courses for volunteers; only then would all the volunteers across the country be able to participate effectively in COVID-19 prevention activities; the COVID disease could still linger on for some time; in the coming month also returnees coming in from across the border could be quite substantial; the help and assistance of volunteers to provide care to the returnees at the quarantine centre was very much in need; since the COVID period could still remain for a long time, it would be essential to systematically build up and nurture the strength of volunteers; that she valued and depended upon the strength of the volunteers; without the strength of the volunteers, the work of prevention and control of COVID could not be accomplished in full measure; finally, responsible officials need to design an effective mechanism to enable volunteers to easily present their needs and requirements.