Myanmar & COVID-19

Myanmar Officials to Prosecute Owner of Nightspot Responsible for Yangon's Biggest COVID-19 Cluster

By Lei Lei 15 September 2020

YANGON—Local authorities in Yangon’s Thingangyun Township are planning to file a lawsuit against the owner of a KTV restaurant where more than 90 people contracted the coronavirus, making it the largest cluster found in the city.

“We are still planning to file a lawsuit. As there are large numbers of COVID-19 patients in our townships, [we are busy], but we will definitely open a case against him,” said Zawana Ward administrator U Hla Than.

The owner was allowed to operate the KTV after promising to reduce the number of tables at the establishment from 100 to 30 in line with social distancing measures, and to follow other COVID-19 health guidelines. But when authorities inspected the KTV, they found that 119 staff were employed for the 30 tables, said U Maung Maung Oo, a Yangon regional MP representing Thingangyun.

Two female staff of the KTV tested positive for the virus after coming into contact with case No. 741 on Sept. 3. The staff members were placed in quarantine, and 90 more later tested positive.

“A lawsuit will be filed against the owner under the Disaster Management Law for failing to follow the instructions of the COVID-19 Prevention, Control and Treatment Committee,” U Maung Maung Oo told The Irrawaddy.

Currently, authorities are only planning to open a case against the owner, and will wait for the advice of law officers before deciding whether to charge the staff, he said.

“After local residents of the ward complained that they had observed a lot of activity at the KTV, the township COVID-19 committee made a surprise inspection. The committee found no guests, but saw large numbers of staff. And we decided to take punitive action, as 92 out of 119 staff tested positive for the virus,” he added.

There is speculation that the venue, Music Zone KTV, which employs 75 male staff and 44 female staff, is owned by a retired government official, but authorities refused to reveal the identity of the owner.

The cluster at Music Zone KTV accounts for one-third of the COVID-19 cases in Thingangyun Township, which had reported 272 cases as of Tuesday morning, the highest number in Yangon Region.

The Central Committee for COVID-19 Prevention, Control and Treatment announced on Aug. 15 that KTVs, bars and clubs were banned in coronavirus-vulnerable areas.

The government has issued stay-at-home orders in almost all townships in Yangon, including Thingangyun.

As of Tuesday morning, Myanmar had reported 3,299 COVID-19 patients—a significant jump from less than 400 cases exactly one month ago. The death toll has increased from six to 32 in that period.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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