Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Local officials across Myanmar have issued movement controls as of April 9 ahead of Thingyan festival due to COVID-19. Other measures apply.

This alert affects Myanmar

This alert began 09 Apr 2020 06:47 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
Authorities are implementing social distancing measures and movement controls to stem the spread of coronavirus disease (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. Other governments are requesting residents to remain at home but have stopped short of movement restrictions. 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.

Governments in Kayah State and Sagaing Region 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 13 and banned foreign nationals from entering through land border checkpoints. 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. 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