YANGON—Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has suspended visas-on-arrival for Chinese travelers to Myanmar as of Saturday, following the World Health Organization (WHO)’s declaration on Thursday that the outbreak of a novel coronavirus has become a global health emergency.
Citing the alarming rate of virus transmission and public health concerns, the ministry said it has decided to temporarily stop issuing visas-on-arrival for Chinese travelers.
“For the time being, it is difficult to set a timeframe [for the suspension]. We’ll take action based on the magnitude of the virus transmission, WHO statements and responses from other countries,” Deputy Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs U Aung Kyaw Zan told The Irrawaddy.
On Oct. 1, 2018, the Myanmar government launched a one-year pilot project granting visa exemptions to travelers from Japan, South Korea, Macau and Hong Kong and granting visas-on-arrival for Chinese travelers in order to promote tourism.
Since then, Chinese arrivals to Myanmar have increased significantly, topping the list of foreign travelers to Myanmar. In October 2019, the Myanmar government extended the visa-on-arrival program for Chinese travelers for one more year.
According to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, Myanmar received nearly 750,000 Chinese travelers in 2019, an increase of more than 400,000 from 2018.
On Friday, a Chinese man who was suspected of being infected with coronavirus arrived in Yangon on a China Southern Airlines flight from Guangzhou. He was then taken to the Wabagi Infectious Disease Hospital in northern Yangon for further observation.
A culture sample from his nasopharyngeal swab was sent to Thailand for a lab test but no infection was found and he was discharged from the hospital on Monday. Two Myanmar citizens, who arrived on the same flight as the Chinese man and were sent to the same hospital, were also discharged.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko
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