When you picture a COVID-19 patient in an isolation facility, you don’t see someone energetically singing and dancing around a hospital room.
But this is exactly what five COVID-19 patients did while in quarantine in the South Okkalapa Maternal and Child Hospital in Yangon, Myanmar, our latest feature in SEA Wave magazine’s #SEAtizens series.
It seemed like destiny that the five patients, Sithu Wu, Chan Myae Aung, Htet Myat Kyaw, Nay Ba La, and Đèstřoyëř Ĵĵ (Facebook name), were assigned in the same room. The first to be admitted, Sithu Wu, owns his own production company, Wu Productions, and brought his video camera and laptop so he could continue to work while Chan Myae Aung brought along his guitar to occupy himself during the quarantine.
Admitted around mid-April, the roommates started bonding by having jamming sessions and got the idea to make funny videos to reassure their family and friends that they were doing well. In an interview with Frontier Myanmar, Chan Myae Aung said of his roommates, “I was really happy to be with them and I forgot that I was a COVID-19 patient.”
The first video they posted on April 26 had the caption “လက်ရှိ COVID ဝေဒနာ ရှင်များ၏ အခြေအနေ” which means “Current state of COVID patients”, and showed the roommates fit and healthy as they dance to a lively pop song, clean their room, and mimic guitars with brooms. It currently has almost 80,000 views and over 2,000 shares on Facebook.
When their first video went viral, it quickly became a campaign to stop the stigma faced by COVID-19 patients and health workers. Realizing that they now have a platform to reach more audiences, they continued filming more videos to further spread their message. Sithu Wu said in an interview with Arab News, “We would like to deliver the message that people should not be so scared of the virus and not ostracize patients, their family members as well as doctors and nurses.” Their other videos also featured health workers in the hospital and acoustic performances of songs about COVID-19.
Since the spread of the virus, patients and health workers have experienced discrimination and received hate speech. Frontier Myanmar reported that patients were being called “criminals” and being accused of knowingly transferring the virus to others while health workers are being evicted from their residences.
Sadly, this is happening not just in Myanmar but also in its neighboring countries. Channel News Asia also reported that so. In the Philippines, several cities have passed anti-discrimination ordinances that prohibits any act of discrimination against frontliners and COVID-19 patients, according to a report by Philippine Daily Inquirer. These came after the Department of the Interior and Local Government called on local government units to create measures that would protect frontliners and patients.
Sithu Wu and his roommates were able to bring some relief from the health crisis through their videos and became a voice of frontliners and patients alike. In a time like this, their videos deliver the message that hateful acts should be the last thing on our minds as we can only get through this crisis if we uplift each other.
SEA Wave magazine’s SEAtizens initiative is a series of inspiring stories of people in Southeast Asia who champion the human spirit by demonstrating courage, ingenuity, generosity, and selflessness amidst the current crisis.
Photos from Nay Ba La.