Myanmar Government Bans Staff From New Year Travel to Stop COVID-19 Spread
By San Yamin Aung 6 April 2020
YANGON — In a move to control the spread of COVID-19, Myanmar’s government has banned all civil servants from traveling during the Thingyan water festival.
The New Year public holiday normally sees government staff returning to their home towns or planning family trips of five to 10 days.
According to the Union Civil Service Board, Myanmar has around 1 million civil servants.
The President’s Office said in a directive issued on Saturday no civil servants would be allowed to travel, except for funerals, from April 10 to 19.
It said the ban would prevent civil servants from transmitting coronavirus to colleagues when they return to work and risk disrupting the operations of government.
The President’s Office said alternative holidays would be arranged when the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
Following the directive, many express bus lines in Naypyitaw suspended all timetables.
In Naypyitaw, around 100 bus lines are running to 51 cities.
The government has banned large gatherings until the end of April, including Thingyan.
State and regional governments have ordered residents to stay at home from April 10 to 19, except for medical treatment and to buy food.
State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Saturday said the next two to three weeks would be critical as it became apparent how fast COVID-19 was spreading, calling for the public to follow government instructions.
“We’ll have to experience a kind of Thingyan that we’ve never experienced before: a Thingyan where we have to totally avoid crowds. Some will question how many people make a ‘crowd’. I would say the fewer the better and the farther apart the better,” she wrote.
She encouraged citizens not to be disheartened by the lack of water throwing, loud music and merriment.
“They say that, ‘health is the greatest of blessings’. We can all make this great donation with goodwill whereby we can all give the greatest of health blessings not only to ourselves but to others as well… In this very special Thingyan, we can perform very good deeds. We can do this at home, without moving.”
Myanmar confirmed 21 COVID-19 cases by Sunday night. One 69-year-old patient, who had been undergoing treatment for stage-four cancer and tested positive for COVID-19, died on Tuesday.
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