Mandalay Mayor Lights the Cake for Quarantined Myanmar Birthday Girl

By Zarni Mann 5 February 2020

MANDALAY—Ma Zin Thit Lin normally celebrates her birthday with her family and friends. But this year, she spent the day under quarantine to ensure she is not infected with coronavirus, and Ma Zin Thit Lin knew the day wouldn’t be the same.

Far from her home in Yangon, she spent the day in an isolation ward in Mandalay and didn’t expect much beyond loneliness.

But that was before she received a surprise birthday cake, ice cream and a pack of steamed wontons on Tuesday—her 23rd birthday. More surprisingly, the gifts were not from her family and friends. They came from the mayor of Mandalay.

The birthday girl, Ma Zin Thit Lin, is one of the student evacuees who returned to Myanmar on Feb. 2 from virus-hit Wuhan in China. She is currently under isolated quarantine at Kandawnadi Hospital in Mandalay, along with 58 of her fellow students.

Ma Zin Thit Lin is from Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township in Yangon and is studying international relations at Wuhan University and had been in Wuhan for about a year and a half.

On her birthday, Feb. 4, Ma Zin Thit Lin wrote on her Facebook page that the Mandalay Mayor U Ye Lwin asked her, via her nurses, if it was her birthday. She later received the surprise cake, ice cream and wontons.

“My birthday this year will be the most memorable one in my life. Thank you and I give my respects to Mayor U Ye Lwin, the Myanmar Restaurant Association and Café House for making my day special even though you are busy,” Ma Zin Thit Lin wrote in her note, accompanied by photos of the birthday cake and snacks.

Ma Zin Thit Lin told The Irrawaddy via phone that she had been thinking about how she would have to spend her birthday alone in the quarantine room, but that the surprise from the mayor made her day.

“I used to spend my birthdays with friends and family every year. I thought about how I will be alone [this year] and I was a bit sad. But my birthday this year is the best birthday I’ve had in my life and I will always remember it,” she said.

The thank-you note from the quarantined birthday girl became the talk of the town as Myanmar struggles to do its best to tackle the coronavirus.

Her note, which also shed light on the care the evacuees are receiving during their 14 days of quarantine, has been circulated widely on social media. Many who shared the birthday girl’s note on social media thanked authorities and the people of Mandalay for supporting the evacuees and praised the Mandalay Regional Government, the mayor, his Surveillance and Response Team (SRT) and donors.

Mandalay Mayor U Ye Lwin

In preparation for the students’ arrival, the SRT team, chaired by the mayor, disinfected and cleaned the previously shuttered Kandawnadi Hospital. Each quarantine room was filled with toiletries, tableware, warm water, drinking water, coffee, tea, food and snacks, clothing and even sanitary napkins for the women. The support and kindness of local donors touched the hearts of many in the community as they provided food, protective suits, masks, medicine, snacks, and meals for the quarantined students as well as the medical staff and security personnel.

The Ministry of Health and Sports announced on Tuesday that the 59 evacuees quarantined in Kandawnadi Hospital, including the doctors who traveled to Wuhan, are in good health and have no symptoms of coronavirus but are still under surveillance.

The evacuated students also expressed their thanks to the mayor, the SRT team and the government for their support by writing thank-you notes on the mayor’s Facebook page.

For Mayor U Ye Lwin, the praise is the latest in a series of positive public responses to his work for the city in recent years.

As soon as he was sworn in as mayor, he reformed the Mandalay Municipal Committee. Under his leadership, Mandalay city, the centuries-old capital of central Myanmar, has built silky-smooth new roads, put up new street lights and implemented an advanced, real-time traffic control system. The city’s waste management has also started to improve dramatically.

U Ye Lwin also formed a team to turn Mandalay into a “smart city,” as it became Myanmar’s first smart city in 2019. The team is currently working to improve the city’s power, water and traffic and is scanning the city to create a digitalized map of Mandalay that will allow for high-tech infrastructure.

Many Facebook users who shared the thank-you letters to the mayor and the birthday girl’s note also questioned the situation of Wabagi Hospital in Yangon.

At Wabagi Hospital, five members of the cabin crew from Myanmar National Airlines who voluntarily traveled to Wuhan to help evacuate the students are under quarantine.

The Ministry of Health and Sports said on Tuesday that while the five cabin crew members are quarantined at Wabagi Hospital, the pilot from the flight and three other crew members were instructed to stay at home are in good health.

The ministry also said that a 15-year-old from Taipei suspected of having coronavirus is recovering at Wabagi and that a 56-year-old man at the hospital who arrived from Kunming was found not to have coronavirus and is in good health. A 32-year-old Chinese citizen at Wabagi, suspected of having coronavirus, still has a fever and is under surveillance and being treated, according to the ministry.

“Apart from the conditions of the patients in Wabagi, we want to know how Yangon might arrange things for the patients,” said U Kyaw Hein, who is running a private school in Mandalay.

“It is very important to give moral support to people who are in quarantine. It is also necessary to let the public know a little bit about how [the authorities] work to prevent infection so that there will be no rumors or panic. As for Mandalay, we feel very safe and we believe the SRT team can handle the issue very well.”

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