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A United Nations special envoy has called for urgent action against Myanmar’s military regime over its continued use of lethal violence to crush dissent, as the COVID-19 pandemic cuts a deadly swathe through the Southeast Asian nation.

There are hundreds of outstanding arrest warrants for health care workers who have been targeted for brutal treatment by the regime that overthrew the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup on Feb. 1, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said in an interview.

Over the following months, doctors went on strike to protest the coup along with thousands of other citizens who took to the streets, many of whom were killed or detained. The military this week annulled the results of last year’s general election that was deemed credible by international observers.

The people of Myanmar need urgent help as the pandemic soars, Andrews said. “You can’t fight COVID-19 and be attacking doctors and nurses and health care professionals at the same time,” he said. “We are almost six months into this coup, hundreds and hundreds of people have been killed, untold numbers are being tortured, people continue to be arrested and attacks continue all over the country — and on top of that we have COVID-19.”

“This is a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe.”

The Southeast Asian nation reported more than 289,000 cases and 8,550 deaths Thursday, but Andrews said the real numbers were likely to be significantly higher. The regime has imposed stay-at-home orders in 98 townships across the country to curb infections.

Apart from arrests and threats of detentions, clinics have been attacked and ransacked, with crucial supplies stolen by the regime, he said. Andrews also expressed concern about the conditions in jails and detention centers, where thousands of political prisoners were detained. The risk of COVID-19 was rampant in these places, he said.

An Australian adviser to detained civilian leader Suu Kyi, Sean Turnell, who was arrested shortly after the military takeover, along with American Danny Fenster, the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar, are among two of those currently in Myanmar jails.

The government said Wednesday that all 40,000 prisoners and detainees in the country will be vaccinated. Myanmar has so far fully immunized around 1.7 million people.

The regime has consistently opposed U.N. resolutions and has rejected Andrews’ role, barring him from entering the country. Earlier this month, the government accused him of interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign state for his remarks during a Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva.

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