Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Government expands border closures, domestic movement controls as of April 15 due to COVID-19. Other measures apply.

This alert affects Myanmar

This alert began 15 Apr 2020 11:15 GMT and is scheduled to expire 30 Apr 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Entry bans, quarantine measures, international and domestic transport disruptions; possible protests

Summary
The Myanmar government has expanded border closures and domestic movement controls as of April 15 to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Officials closed the border with Bangladesh from April 13 until further notice, only exempting vehicles transporting goods and returning citizens. The Sagaing regional government has also imposed a 2200-0400 curfew across Sagaing Region from April 13. The regional government is enforcing the curfew after reversing the decision to implement other movement restrictions through April 21. Authorities are only allowing residents to leave their homes during the curfew to buy food or seek medical attention. Officials have stated that transgressors of the curfew will face government action.

The enhanced restrictions have been implemented amid other government-enforced social distancing measures and movement controls to stem the spread of COVID-19 during the annual Thingyan festival celebrating the Myanmar New Year April 13-16. The central government has canceled official celebrations in Yangon and banned large gatherings across the country through April 30. Authorities have banned public servants from traveling outside of their cities or regions. Officials have also stopped migrant workers from traveling overseas.

More stringent measures are in place across much of Myanmar, including Yangon, Mandalay, and Sagaing regions and Kachin, Kayah, Mon, and Shan states. Officials in Yangon have ordered residents to stay at home, except for buying food and medication, April 10-19. Similar measures are in place in Shan State, where residents must obtain permission from township officials before traveling. Authorities have closed nonessential businesses in most areas for varying time frames, with exceptions in place for food producers, markets, medical providers and pharmacies, banks, and utilities. Officials in some areas have also shut down hotels, tourist attractions, and public parks. Authorities may implement additional measures depending on the extent of COVID-19 activity in the country.

Officials have also restricted transport in some regions and states in the country. Shan State officials have suspended public transport through April 21, while authorities in Mandalay Region and Kayah State have banned public transport with more than seven passengers from using highways. Mandalay city officials have also banned travel in and out of the city through April 21. The movement restrictions have led some airlines to suspend flights during the holiday; state carrier Myanmar National Airline (UB) has canceled flights April 13-19, while Air KBZ (K7) will suspend flights April 11-18. Train operators are also suspending or planning to cancel services on some routes, including between Yangon and Mandalay. Further transport disruptions are possible in the coming weeks.

The Kayah State government also canceled plans to implement movement controls after residents criticized the policy and claimed it would affect the economy. Similar criticism is possible in other areas of the country and could lead to protests against movement controls or transport and business closures.

Travel Restrictions

Officials have stopped all international flights, except for relief or cargo flights, through at least April 30 and have also closed borders with India, China, Laos, and Thailand. Authorities are allowing returning citizens and commercial activity through land-based border checkpoints but are banning foreign nationals from entering. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also suspended visa issuance and visa-free travel to the country through April 30. Diplomats, UN officials, and aircraft and ship crew are exempt from visa restrictions. Officials will require returning Myanmar citizens and incoming foreigners, with some exceptions, to undergo a 14-day quarantine at government facilities; returning migrants require a 21-day quarantine at a government facility. Authorities are allowing diplomats and resident UN officials to self-quarantine at their residence. The government could expand its response in the coming weeks, particularly if COVID-19 activity increases in-country.

Background and Analysis
The measures adopted by the government correspond with similar actions taken by other regional governments in recent days in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Postpone travel if affected by travel restrictions. Confirm flight status before checking out of accommodation and departing for the airport. Follow all official immigration and health screening instructions, particularly if traveling from affected locations. Allow additional time for immigration and health screenings at all ports of entry. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Avoid any demonstration as a precaution.

Exercise basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

Resources
World Health Organization (WHO): www.who.int