Myanmar & COVID-19

Myanmar's Suu Kyi Warns of Jail Terms for COVID-19 Rule Breakers

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 2 September 2020

Yangon – Myanmar’s State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has warned that anyone failing to follow COVID-19 instructions could face a prison term to deal with the “national disaster”.

In Wednesday’s video conference with Major General Soe Tint Naing, the military-appointed deputy minister for home affairs, Yangon’s southern district administrator, U Nay Win Aung, and Dr. Thet Su Mon, assistant director of the Yangon Public Health Department, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said the authorities will use the Natural Disaster Management Law instead of the Communicable Diseases Law for harsher punishments.

The Communicable Diseases Law carries fines of up to 5,000 kyats (US$3.8) while the natural disaster law threatens prison terms of up to a year.

Myanmar’s number of COVID-19 cases has climbed rapidly since Aug. 21 and, as of Wednesday, the country has reported 938 cases, including six deaths.

The health minister, Dr. Myint Htwe, said a rapid response was the only way to control the pandemic through the urgent detection of COVID-19 cases and their contacts.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s warning came as the health authorities are struggling to hunt more than 4,000 returnees from Rakhine State, where 500 cases have been reported since Aug 16.

The Ministry of Health and Sports has ordered anyone leaving Rakhine after Aug. 10 to report to a health clinic and to the authorities to be quarantined and for COVID-19 testing.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the health ministry said anyone failing to report to a clinic would face prosecution.

“We are taking harsher measures because COVID-19 is a national disaster. Some people may not like it but they have to understand how dangerous the disease can be. If a city like Yangon is severely hit it would be very difficult to provide efficient care for everyone,” she said.

Myanmar reported its first domestic transmission in a month with a 26-year-old female employee at a bank in the Rakhine capital, Sittwe, on Aug. 16. Yangon Region has reported 114 COVID-19 cases, including 97 cases transmitted within Myanmar since Aug. 19.

On Tuesday, the health ministry imposed partial lockdowns on the seven Yangon townships, including Insein, Thingangyun, Hlaing, North Okkalapa, Pazundaung, Thaketa and Mingaladon, after many COVID-19 patients were found to have no travel history and no recorded contact with known patients.

People from the townships are instructed not to leave their homes without a proper reason.

Bars, karaoke lounges and nightclubs in Yangon have been closed since Aug. 15.