Insein prison chief declines to reveal whether political prisoners will be among those released.
Myanmar politician Nyan Win, a senior adviser to deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has died in hospital after becoming infected with COVID-19 in jail, his party said, as the Southeast Asian country struggles with an exponential rise in infections.
Nyan Win, 78, who had been held in Yangon’s Insein Prison after being arrested when the military seized power on February 1, was transferred to hospital last week, the National League for Democracy (NLD) said in a statement on Tuesday.
“We promise to continue fighting for our unfinished tasks, to end the dictatorship in the country and to establish a Federal Democratic Union,” the NLD statement said, offering condolences to the family of a man who had been Suu Kyi’s lawyer and party spokesman.
Myanmar’s military leadership also confirmed the death.
“U Nyan Win was found with COVID symptoms on July 11 and transferred to Yangon General Hospital … to get treatment,” said Zaw Min Tun, spokesman of the State Administration Council – as the military government calls itself.
“He died this morning at 9am in the hospital.”
Myanmar’s efforts to contain COVID-19 infections have been thrown into chaos by the turmoil since the military seized power from Suu Kyi’s elected government.
According to the military-controlled health ministry, about 1.6 million people have been vaccinated out of a population of 54 million, state media reported.
The Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported about 750,000 Chinese vaccine doses would arrive on Thursday and more over the following days, as the ministry predicted half of the population would be inoculated this year.
The United Nations said in a report on Monday it was stepping up efforts to combat an “alarming spike” in COVID-19 cases and expected Myanmar to receive enough vaccines via the COVAX facility this year for 20 percent of the population.
The pandemic toll
Myanmar registered a record 281 COVID-19 deaths on Monday and 5,189 new infections, state-run MRTV Television reported, citing health ministry figures.
But medics and funeral services say the real toll is much higher than the military government’s figures, and crematoriums are overloaded.
Illustrating the extent of the spread of the coronavirus, China on Tuesday reported its highest daily tally of new infections since January, mostly linked to Chinese nationals returning to Yunnan province from Myanmar.
Zaw Wai Soe, health minister of the National Unity Government (NUG), which was set up as a shadow government by opponents of army rule, was quoted by the US-funded RFA (Radio Free Asia) website as saying that up to 400,000 lives could be lost if swift action was not taken to slow infections.
The military’s critics also say lives have been lost because of its restrictions on some private oxygen suppliers in the name of stopping hoarding.