Myanmar Orders Half of Govt Employees to Stay Home Over COVID-19

By Nan Lwin 26 March 2020

YANGON—The Myanmar government has ordered half of its employees to stay at home as the country has confirmed its first three cases of coronavirus, but told the employees to be ready to report to work if it needed.

The Myanmar President Office said in a statement Wednesday that all government staff, from Union to region and state-level, must follow the latest order to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

The president’s office said the order would go into effect on Thursday.

During the break, 50 percent of government employees must stay at their homes or in government housing and be ready to report for duty. The employees are not allowed to travel or move to other places without informing the relevant departments. They have to report to authorities if there are suspected COVID-19 patients in their area or if the employees suspect they may be carrying the disease, the President Office said.

The Irrawaddy has learned that health care treatment providers, including doctors and nurses, who are assigned to government hospitals across the country are not included in the order to stay home.

The President Office said that all government employees must cooperate with coronavirus-related instructions from the Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS) and must cooperate with health officials if there is a need to conduct testing.

The President Office also said employees must reduce the number of people visiting their homes.

Myanmar has confirmed three COVID-19 cases so far: a 36-year-old man in Chin State who arrived from the US and two 26-year-old men in Yangon who both returned from the United Kingdom. All are Myanmar citizens.

This week, state and regional governments formed COVID-19 prevention working groups.

Health Minister U Myint Htwe said on Wednesday that the ministry has plans in place to ensure hospitals in states and regions can obtain up-to-date COVID-19 treatment information.

U Myint Htwe ordered health officials to ramp up their efforts as an epidemic is imminent in the country as thousands of migrant workers are returning to Myanmar.

Since last week, thousands of migrant workers have returned to Myanmar across land border gates with Thailand. MOHS announced Sunday that the returnees must remain in home quarantine for 14 days as there are too many returnees for quarantine centers to handle.

U Myint Htwe said there is a very high risk of people contracting the coronavirus as large numbers of migrant workers return to Myanmar.

As a preventive measure against COVID-19, the Myanmar government banned public gatherings from early March until the end of April, including the upcoming Thingyan water festival. The government also temporarily ordered a shutdown of cinemas and public and private nursery schools across the country.

On Tuesday, the government ordered mandatory quarantines at government facilities for all travelers, including both Myanmar nationals and foreigners but not diplomats or UN officials.

In addition, foreign nationals, including diplomats and UN officials, travelling to Myanmar are required to present a medical certificate showing they tested negative for COVID-19, issued no more than 72 hours prior to the date of travel, before boarding any flights bound for Myanmar. Diplomats and UN officials arriving in Myanmar will be subject to home quarantine for 14 days.

The Myanmar government has also temporarily suspended all visas-on-arrival and e-visas until April 30. Moreover, the government has prepared hospitals, stadiums, apartments and mediation centers across Myanmar to serve as quarantine centers for people who are arriving from foreign countries. Myanmar has quarantined a total of about 504 people as of Wednesday at hospitals, hotels and other quarantines facilities.

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