(Bloomberg) -- Myanmar reported the nation’s first local transmission of Omicron variant on Friday, as 72 new cases were detected in Tamu and Kalay townships near the border with India, according to the Ministry of Health. 

“Given that local transmission of Omicron began here, people are required to strictly follow Covid rules and get vaccinated without fail,” said Khin Khin Gyi, director of emerging infectious disease at the Central Epidemiology Unit.

Authorities locked down a city near the Indian border after more than 150 Covid cases were reported over the past week, local media reported, without specifying the variant. The Southeast Asian nation has recorded 283 Omicron cases among 534,908 reported coronavirus cases and 19,310 deaths so far, according to government data. But earlier this week, the World Bank said in its latest report on Myanmar’s economy that the data’s reliability remains uncertain.

“Anecdotal reports suggest that Covid-19 transmission could be higher in some rural areas, particularly near the border with India, which is facing a significant surge in Omicron cases in the areas close to Myanmar,” the report said.

The health ministry said about 22 million people, 40% of its population, have received jabs while the World Bank stated vaccination rates remain very low largely due to ongoing supply issues around the availability and distribution of vaccines. Kim Edwards, World Bank senior economist for Myanmar, expected Omicron cases to significantly rise in the coming months but the impacts could be less than the third virus wave, citing regional experience and country-specific projections. 




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