Myanmar & COVID-19

Thousands of Myanmar Migrant Workers Return from China into Quarantine

By Zarni Mann 20 April 2020

MANDALAY—Nearly 4,000 Myanmar migrant workers who were working in China have flooded into border checkpoints in Kachin State since last Thursday, where they were transferred to government facilities across the state for 21-day quarantines. Local officials were told to expect as many as 18,000 migrant workers to return in the coming weeks.

According to local government officials in Kachin, nearly 4,000 workers crossed into Myanmar through the border checkpoints at Kanpiketi and Lwe Je after their employers in China shut down.

“The Chinese government sent the workers back from the factories in Yunnan Province which were shut down due to COVID-19,” said U Nay Win, the local parliamentarian of Momauk constituency and a member of the team supervising the entry of migrant workers at Lwe Je border checkpoint. “Most of the workers who arrived in these days were from Bhamo, Momauk and Shwegu townships and they were sent back to their hometowns after a medical check and after their travel histories were recorded.”

Over 3,000 migrant workers from Bhamo, Momauk and Shwegu townships were already sent back to their hometowns and are spending 21 days in quarantine at their village schools or at quarantine centers in their towns. They are reportedly in good health.

Migrant workers from Sagaing Division were also sent home through arrangements between the Kachin and Sagaing governments, where they will be quarantined for 21 days at local facilities.

At the makeshift quarantine center near Lwe Je border checkpoint, there are about 100 workers now under quarantine for 21 days.

“They are the locals of Lwe Je and those who are from far away, such as from Rakhine State, Shan State and Magwe division. They will have to stay here to complete the 21-day quarantine and we will arrange transportation for them after that,” U Nay Win explained.

The migrant workers at the makeshift quarantine centers near the border have been provided with mats, pillows, mosquito nets and soap. Food has been provided with the help of the families of the local residents under quarantine.

“There will be more workers coming back and we will need more help to provide food for the quarantined people. We were told that there will be total of 18,000 migrant workers returning,” said U Nay Win.

There have been complaints about the accommodations at the makeshift quarantine centers near the border, including that there are not enough beds and people have had to sleep on the floor. Some people have voiced complaints about the poor hygiene situation and say they have had to cook their own meals and have difficulties buying food, as they are in quarantine.

“As the makeshift quarantine centers are at the border, there will be some needs. For example, we could not provide beds, only the mats, pillows, mosquito nets and blankets. For the food and good hygiene as well, we are trying our best to make [the returned workers] safe and healthy,” explained U Khin Maung Myint, ethnic affairs minister in the Kachin State government.

“We are preparing to welcome more workers. We are boosting up the number of health workers at the quarantine centers at the border checkpoints. Many locals and local volunteers are also helping us to give the best support for the quarantine people and health workers,” he added.

According to a Kachin State government official, the government is preparing about 351 quarantine centers across the state, though 252 of the centers are already in use, accommodating migrant workers, people being monitored for COVID-19 and those who have been in contact with patients who tested positive for the disease.

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