Catholic bishop in Myanmar dies of COVID-19

A Catholic bishop in Myanmar has died of COVID-19 as the country faces a surge in new cases. 

Bishop John Hsane Hgyi of Pathein died of the disease at the age of 67. He had reportedly suffered from diabetes before he contracted COVID-19 this week, according to CBCP News.

Credited with lending moral support during crisis

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar expressed sorrow over the death of Bishop Hsane Hgyi, who led Catholics “to moral support and spiritual strength in this time of crisis”.

“He has fought the good fight. He has finished the race. He has kept the faith leaving us an example to imitate,” Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, CBCM President, said.

“We give thanks to God for Bishop John’s life and commitment to the people entrusted to his care,” he said.

A surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths

In Myanmar over 246,000 people have contracted COVID-19 and over 5,000 have died. The cases have doubled every week in recent weeks with over 6,000 cases and 247 deaths reported on Thursday.

The surge in COVID-19 infections comes at a time of political crisis as the country appears at the brink of civil war following the February military coup. 

Voice of America reports that thousands of protesters have been arrested and killed, creating widespread distrust of the military among the population. That distrust, the report said, is leading some victims of COVID-19 to refuse to seek help at military-run hospitals. 

Those hospitals are nevertheless overtaxed and understaffed, with patients being turned away, according to the report.

Prior to the coup Myanmar was reportedly well on the way to vaccinating its population of 54 million against COVID-19.

A physiotherapist told VOA that the coup halted progress getting the country vaccinated.

“In the second wave [November 2020], the civilian government [the now-removed National League for Democracy party] is leading and care for all patients and patients with COVID 19 confirmed case, everything is running smoothly.”

“Myanmar has already paid for the vaccines. Health workers have also been vaccinated first dose and are waiting for the second dose. If there had been no political change at that time, almost all citizens would have been vaccinated. And the public may not have to face the third wave of COVID 19,” she said.