Migrants Returning Illegally From India Spark COVID-19 Alarm

By Lei Lei 28 July 2020

Yangon – Sagaing Region residents have expressed their fears of a COVID-19 outbreak as many citizens have returned from the Indian states of Manipur and Mizoram, illegally crossing the border to avoid quarantine.

“Many have illegally crossed the border. As India has reported large numbers of COVID-19 cases, we have arranged centers on this side of the border for quarantine. But the returnees illegally crossed the border and many are hiding with relatives. We are worried,” said director Ko Kyaw Thet Win of Upper Chindwin Youth Network, a civil society organization based in Kalay.

Citizens who have returned from abroad have to undergo a 21-day quarantine upon their arrival, 14 days at quarantine centers and seven days at home.

The Indian Express reported on Tuesday that India’s COVID-19 cases had risen to 1,483,157, including 33,425 deaths, the worst-hit country in Asia – if other countries’ figures are to be believed – and the third worst-hit country in the world by coronavirus.

According to the network, 20 Myanmar citizens, including nine females, illegally crossed the border on Sunday from Mizoram to Kalay via Chin State’s Tedim Township. They are reportedly residents of Monywa.

Many of the migrants work in basic jobs in weaving, workshops and construction in India and returned to Myanmar as COVID-19 forced the closures of many businesses.

“There are many unofficial border crossing points. And there are many working as weavers in Mizoram. Many have returned over the past few days, especially from Manipur and Mizoram. A returnee who illegally crossed the border from Manipur was recently caught in Tamu. We are really concerned,” said Ko Kyaw Thet Win.

The network requested nationals to return officially and follow the Ministry of Health and Sports guidelines.

Legal action was taken under the Prevention and Control of Communicable Diseases Law against six students who illegally crossed the border into Tamu in Sagaing on June 13.

According to the Sagaing regional government, 10 citizens had been prosecuted under the law for illegally entering the region.

Chin State municipal affairs minister U Soe Htet said the state government instructed village administrators to arrest and take legal action against those who failed to enter through the two official gates in Chin State.

“We have been arresting the illegal returnees. It would be better if the public report those cases to us – rather than just complaining – so that we can take action,” said Sagaing Region Immigration and Human Resources Minister U Kyaw Moe Thu.

“There were also the people who returned illegally in the past. It is not that the number of illegal returnees has increased. More than 1 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in India. It has become the third worst-hit country in the world. So there are high chances [that returnees may be infected with the virus]. That’s why we are concerned,” said Kalay resident U Thant Sin Lin.

As of Tuesday morning, Myanmar has reported 350 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with six deaths and 292 recoveries.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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