By Michelle Nichols
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Britain's U.N. ambassador warned on Thursday that half of Myanmar's 54 million people could be infected with COVID-19 in the next two weeks as Myanmar's envoy called for U.N. monitors to ensure an effective delivery of vaccines.
Myanmar has been in chaos since the military ousted an elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, with protests and fighting between the army and newly formed militias. The United States, Britain and others have imposed sanctions on the military rulers over the coup and repression of pro-democracy protests in which hundreds have been killed.
"The coup has resulted in a near total collapse of the healthcare system, and health care workers are being attacked and arrested," British U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward told an informal Security Council discussion on Myanmar.
"The virus is spreading through the population, very fast indeed. By some estimates, in the next two weeks, half of the population of Myanmar could be infected with COVID," she said.
Myanmar state media reported on Wednesday that the military ruler is looking for greater cooperation with other countries to contain the coronavirus.
Infections in the Southeast Asian country have surged since June, with 4,980 cases and 365 deaths reported on Wednesday, according to health ministry data cited in media. Medics and funeral services put the toll much higher.
"In order to have smooth and effective COVID vaccination and providing humanitarian assistance, close-monitoring by the international community is essential," Myanmar's U.N. Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, who speaks for the elected civilian government, told the Security Council discussion.
"As such, we would like to request the U.N. in particular the Security Council to urgently establish a U.N.-led monitoring mechanism for effective COVID vaccination and smooth delivery of humanitarian assistance," he said.
Myanmar recently received two million more Chinese vaccines, but it was believed to have only vaccinated about 3.2% of its population, according to a Reuters tracker.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Grant McCool)