As Myanmar’s efforts to contain the coronavirus continue, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi warned on Saturday that anyone who has illegally entered the country and anyone aiding them will face legal action.
“Those who come into the country illegally, those who receive them knowingly, and those who cover up will be dealt with strictly and severely according to the law,” she wrote, reiterating the government’s stance.
Prior to her warning, the National-Level Central Committee for Prevention, Control and Treatment of COVID-19 said Wednesday that some Myanmar nationals have reentered the country illegally, despite government efforts to process returnees at official reception centers in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The committee warned that “if anyone enters Myanmar through any unauthorized entry point from a foreign country and if such person has been accepted with the knowledge that such person has entered the country illegally, it is hereby notified that legal action would be taken in accordance with prevailing laws.”
Health care staff and authorities have been conducting temperature checks and health screenings of returnees at international airports, ports and border entry points. Since mid-May, all returnees have been placed into 21-day quarantine and tested for the coronavirus before being released.
As of Sunday, 27,502 migrants have returned to Myanmar through land borders from Thailand since May 23 and thousands more have returned from China. Since April 30, 3,762 Myanmar nationals have returned on repatriation flights.
“All of us need to prevent and severely restrict illegal border crossing,” the State Counselor wrote on her Facebook. She added, regarding those who entered illegally and did not go into quarantine, that “if they carry [COVID-19] disease, it could spread to others.”
She said that conducting contact tracing for illegal returnees and placing those who were potentially exposed into quarantine is “a huge burden” for the country but a necessary measure for the people’s safety.
She urged people to inform ward or village administrative authorities if anyone knows about any incidents that could endanger the public. “Giving this type of information does not mean that you are getting someone into trouble. This is just to prevent innocent people from falling into the COVID-19 abyss,” she wrote.
As of Monday, Myanmar has 262 confirmed COVID-19 cases with six deaths and 167 recoveries.
The COVID-19 central committee’s move comes after a number of imported COVID-19 cases were detected among those who illegally entered into western Myanmar from neighboring Bangladesh.
Since June 4, Myanmar has seen six coronavirus cases related to illegal border crossing into Maungdaw, Rakhine State in western Myanmar. Five cases were returnees who entered illegally from the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar District of Bangladesh.
The latest patient tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday. Identified as case number 262, he is a 63-year-old Rohingya man from Buthidaung Township in Rakhine State.
According to the Rakhine State Public Health Department, he is a resident of Buthidaung, who went to visit his family in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh on May 2 and returned to Myanmar on May 22.
Authorities were not aware when he reentered Myanmar through Maungdaw Township on his way home to Buthidaung. He was placed on home quarantine after a neighbor reported his arrival to the authorities.
The man’s swab samples were taken on Saturday. As the test came back positive, 19 of his close contacts, including family members, will be quarantined and tested for the coronavirus, according to Dr. Soe Win Paing, the deputy director of the Rakhine State Public Health Department.
“The neighbors reported his return from Bangladesh, but he denied traveling to Bangladesh and refused to stay in facility quarantine, so we ordered him to home quarantine,” said U Soe Aung, the Maungdaw district administrator.
U Soe Aung said those who defied local district orders as well as the Health Ministry’s instructions could be charged under a number of different laws, including the Prevention and Control of Communicable Diseases Law, as well as articles under the Penal Code and immigration acts.
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