MANDALAY—The Mandalay government moved forward on Saturday with its campaign to get local residents to wear masks by instituting a fine for anyone who goes outside with their face uncovered.
The regional government launched its campaign to get the public to wear masks on April 11 when it began distributing homemade cloth masks for free, both to educate people about the importance of wearing a mask and to ensure everyone has access to masks amid rising prices and short supplies.
As the stay-at-home order over the Myanmar New Year holiday in April finished and some travel restrictions were lifted, some local residents returned to the streets without masks.
According to the Mandalay City Development Committee (MCDC), the program to fine those not wearing masks has begun at markets and crowded areas in the city.
“The staff from MCDC are at market areas to make sure the vendors and their customers wear the masks properly. For those found without a mask, the fine is 1,000 kyats (US$0.72) and we give them two masks that they can then wear on the spot,” explained U Kyaw San Myint, a committee member of MCDC.
According to MCDC, at least 100 vendors and local residents at wet markets in Mandalay were fined over the weekend.
“Although our country does not have many confirmed cases [of COVID-19] compared to other countries, the precaution is still needed and wearing a mask at all times when going outside of your home is compulsory. That’s why the government announced a fine for any person without a mask, just to educate the locals that our battle with COVID-19 is not over yet,” he added.
The regional government announced last week that any person going out without a mask on after May 15 will face a much larger fine.
“From May 9 to 15 is the education period and the fine is just 1,000 kyats. Starting May 15, the fine will be 5,000 kyats for going out without a mask and we will give them two masks,” U Kyaw San Myint explained.
The Mandalay regional government has so far distributed about 600,000 free cloth masks to wet markets, street hawkers, motorcycle taxi drivers and local residents across Mandalay District.
“We only open one or two entrances of the wet markets in Mandalay Region and we will not allow anyone [the vendors or their customers] to enter the market without a mask. For the vendors, we will do a first warning if they are found without a mask and will not allow them to sell goods in the market if they continue selling things without a mask,” U Kyaw San Myint added.
Although the markets and many local businesses in the city remain closed, locals came out from their homes over the weekend and some areas in Mandalay such as shopping malls saw significant crowds.
Public areas such as pagodas, parks, playgrounds, the zoo, churches and mosques remain closed until further notice from the Union Government.
Meanwhile in Tanintharyi Division and Ayeyarwady Region, the regional governments are also beginning campaigns get people to wear masks by instituting 5,000-kyat fines for anyone out without a mask.
In Yangon, where the majority of Myanmar’s COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, the regional government is also planning to distribute free cloth masks and institute similar punishments for those not wearing masks.
Myanmar has so far confirmed 180 cases of COVID-19, including six deaths.
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