UK Embassy Tells Citizens to Leave Myanmar Amid Coronavirus Concerns
By Nan Lwin 18 March 2020
YANGON—The UK Embassy in Yangon announced Tuesday that all British nationals in Myanmar are advised to leave the country if possible, due to the potential pressures on medical facilities from COVID-19 and the risk that flights departing the country will be cancelled.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Myanmar has not yet seen a single confirmed case of the coronavirus. Myanmar health officials have tested nearly 135 people for possible coronavirus infection and none have tested positive, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS). Lab results for 9 suspected patients are still pending, MOHS said.
“The worldwide coronavirus outbreak is expected to put significant pressure on Myanmar’s medical facilities, and they may not be able to offer routine care,” the UK Embassy said. “There is also a risk that air routes out of Myanmar could be cancelled without notice.”
As of Wednesday, some staff at the British Embassy and their dependents are being withdrawn. Core staff will remain to continue critical work including consular assistance, according to the embassy.
“You should make your own arrangements for leaving the country. We only organize assisted departure in exceptional circumstances and do not anticipate that we will be doing this in Myanmar,” the UK Embassy said.
A total of 1,950 people have been infected with COVID-19 in the UK as of Wednesday, with 60 deaths.
The COVID-19 outbreak began in China and, as of publication time, has infected nearly 200,000 people around the world. According to Chinese health authorities, it has infected over 80,000 and killed more than 3,000 people inside the country. Italy has reported over 30,000 confirmed cases with 2,503 deaths. Iran has reported nearly 17,000 cases with 988 deaths while Spain has reported more than 10,000 people infected and 491 deaths.
After the virus outbreak began in Wuhan, China, the Myanmar government formed a central committee to tackle the outbreak’s health and socio-economic impacts on Myanmar.
A day after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak to be a global pandemic last Thursday, the central committee was elevated to a national-level body.
In response to the pandemic, the Myanmar President Office banned public gatherings until the end of April, including the Thingyan new year’s water festival. The government also ordered cinemas across the country to shut starting Monday. The Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement will temporarily close public and private nursery schools.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) also told all diplomats based in the country on Tuesday 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 government’s effort to reduce risks, the US Embassy in Yangon also announced that it will close the American Center Yangon and the Jefferson Center Mandalay to the public and that English classes will be rescheduled.
The Myanmar government has also ordered mandatory quarantines or surveillance for arrivals from China, Korea, Italy, Iran, France, Spain, Germany and the United States, which have been hit by COVID-19.
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