Myanmar-Based Diplomats Told to Cancel Events Amid Coronavirus Fears

By Nyein Nyein 17 March 2020

Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has told all diplomats based in the country to postpone large events until the end of April and to temporarily close all schools run by foreign embassies in Yangon in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ministry posted on Facebook on Tuesday that, “the MOFA and Ministry of International Cooperation had suspended the ministry-led diplomatic training, discussions and ceremonies”.

The MOFA also told Myanmar’s diplomatic operations overseas to avoid similar events.

Following the World Health Organization’s declaration that Covid-19 was a global pandemic last Wednesday, the President’s Office asked people to avoid public gathering, including the Thingyan water festival in mid-April. The ban is due to be enforced until April 30.

“If needed, the suspension period will be extended,” it said.

Since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, governments around the world have encouraged social distancing, as well as regular hand-washing.

The government also ordered cinemas across the country to shut and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement presented a plan to temporarily close public and private nursery schools.

The US Embassy in Yangon said it was working closely with the government to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Myanmar.

The embassy posted on Facebook that several events in Yangon and Mandalay were being postponed to implement its social distancing.

It said from Wednesday (March 18) the American Center Yangon and Jefferson Center Mandalay will be closed and English Language Program (ELP) classes will be rescheduled.

It said: “Routine non-immigrant and immigrant visa appointments will be canceled. US citizen services and diplomatic/official visa processing will continue without interruption. All visa applicants should monitor their email address on record for visa appointment updates. We will resume routine visa services when possible.”

By Monday, 123 people had been tested for the coronavirus with no positive results, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports. It added that lab results were still expected for 10 patients.

Globally, there are more than 182,000 confirmed cases and more than 7,100 people have died with the virus as of Tuesday morning, although most had preexisting health conditions.

Myanmar’s government has also ordered mandatory quarantine or surveillance for arrivals from China, Korea, Italy, Iran, France, Spain, Germany and the United States, which have been particularly affected by Covid-19.

Travelers are also required to present medical certificates saying they have no symptoms of respiratory illnesses.

The Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok has urged migrant workers in Thailand not to return home for the weeklong Thingyan festival in the second week of April to avoid the risk of spreading the coronavirus. The Thai government will also abolish free re-entry for migrant workers, unlike in previous years. Thailand on Tuesday announced the nationwide closure of schools, bars, cinemas and other entertainment centers and banned its Songkran new year festival, which is similar to Myanmar’s Thingyan.

The Myanmar Embassy in Kuala Lumpur also urged migrant workers from Myanmar in Malaysia to delay unnecessary travel.

The Malaysian government has shut schools and most private and public services, but granted exemptions to the health care sector, ports and other transport services for the rest of the month. The borders have been closed, with overseas travel banned and foreigners to be denied entry to the country.

Malaysia reported a surge in coronavirus infections after an international religious gathering this month in Kuala Lumpur. It now has the highest number of cases in Southeast Asia.

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