Working with WHO, Myanmar is reflecting on its response to COVID-19 and using lessons learnt to strengthen its national influenza pandemic preparedness (NIPP) plan.
When COVID-19 emerged in late 2019, Myanmar had just finished testing its capacity to put a new NIPP plan into practice through a simulation exercise focused on the operational capacity of Emergency Operations Centres and novel influenza outbreak response. The pandemic provided a live follow-up to the simulation exercise, testing all areas of the national plan to expose what worked and what didn’t work well. Myanmar, like all countries, was suddenly forced to strengthen or build capacities for emergency response on multiple fronts.
The pandemic has severely tested the preparedness of nations and health systems around the world. But it has also provided a vital opportunity to learn from experience, identify best practices across different settings, and enable improvement. To that end, supported by the PIP Framework Partnership Contribution, WHO’s Country Office for Myanmar did an in-depth analysis of the NIPP plan to identify areas that could be strengthened.
Recommendations to emerge from this work included:
- Revise the national plan as the contingency plan for infectious hazards within the overall multi-hazard public health emergency plan. Its major highlights would be the principles of comprehensive risk management, multisectoral & multidisciplinary approach for preparedness and response, and the community resilience for and in future pandemics and outbreaks.
- Integrate pandemic risk management plans into existing national emergency risk management programmes.
- Plan to mitigate the societal and economic impact of pandemics.
- Adopt a balanced, whole-of-government, and whole-of-society approach to planning, allocating resources, building capacity and implementing interventions for preparedness and response across health and non-health sectors.
- Develop a framework for facilitating evidence- and risk-based decision-making for public health and social measures during a pandemic.
- Develop a national clinical management preparedness stream to reduce the health impacts on people infected by a pandemic disease.
- Consider developing mechanisms for mobilizing civil society organizations and partners to maintain essential community services and functions during a pandemic response.
Following this in-depth analysis and recommendations, Myanmar is updating its NIPP plan. The plan will remain dynamic to accommodate new developments in research, learnings from experience and any changes to WHO guidelines on pandemic influenza risk and impact management.