YANGON and MANDALAY — Myanmar’s hardest-hit region for COVID-19, Yangon, will ease some restrictions in four townships as no new cases have been reported for 20 days, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said on Wednesday.
The townships – Mingaladon, Hlaing Tharyar, Shwepyitha and Botahtaung – are among the country’s 10 COVID-19 hotspots which are currently under semi-lockdown.
Streets will be unblocked and restaurants and tea shops allowed to reopen. Yangon eateries have been allowed to provide takeaways since March 27, after the country reported its first coronavirus case.
The State Counselor, who chairs the Central Committee on Prevention, Control and Treatment of Coronavirus Disease, discussed lifting the restrictions with Yangon’s mayor and deputy mayor, the Union health minister and lawmakers from the four townships on Wednesday.
Parliamentarian U Aung Hlaing Win, who joined the meeting, said the State Counselor wanted the four townships to be an example for others, as they had seen no new cases because health guidelines had been followed.
He said eating out was essential for low-income workers in their free time and for the survival of businesses. They would open in the coming few days, U Aung Hlaing Win said..
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi stressed that businesses must ensure distancing measures were followed or face fines and then possible closures, he added.
“We will examine businesses which open. And the public can complain if they see the breaching of guidelines,” U Aung Hlaing Win said.
But bars, pubs and nightclubs will not be allowed to reopen yet.
Private banks recently resumed their usual business hours.
The Yangon regional government has threatened legal action against residents who fail to wear masks in public and gatherings of more than four people.
The Mandalay regional government said it is going to ease restrictions on businesses after May 16.
Unlike Yangon, Mandalay ordered all businesses – including markets, hotels, factories, religious buildings and transport providers apart from cargo and trade – to close on April 9. Eateries have been restricted to serving take aways.
Mandalay City Development Committee said it will prioritize businesses based on their importance to the public.
The firms due to open first will include those selling construction materials, mobile phones, clothing and jewelry and beauty saloons.
Mandalay Mayor U Ye Lwin told The Irrawaddy the first priority list will include firms where overcrowding will not be an issue. Staff would be expected to take preventative measures, he said.
“We already instructed [businesses] and we will check to make sure they follow the rules. If not, we will close the business for three days as the first warning. The second time, the closure will last 10 days. If problems continue, the businesses will be closed permanently,” U Ye Lwin added.
Major markets, like the Zaycho market and plaza, gyms, stadiums, football fields and guest houses will open as a second priority after inspections for social distancing and only with limited operating hours.
The third priority list includes parks, amusement parks, zoos, spas, massage parlors and karaoke lounges.
The mayor said tea shops and restaurants would reopen depending on the COVID-19 situation in the country and when preventive measures, like plastic screens between tables, were introduced.
“Until then they can only serve takeaways,” he said.