Myanmar & COVID-19

Yangon Makes Wearing Face Masks Mandatory; Legal Action Awaits Violators

By Nan Lwin 12 May 2020

YANGON—In the latest move to curb the spread of COVID-19, authorities in Myanmar’s commercial hub of Yangon have warned residents that failing to wear a face mask while outside their home could result in legal action ranging from fines to a jail term of up to six months.

As of Tuesday morning, Myanmar had reported a total of 180 COVID-19 cases including six deaths. Yangon has been by far the hardest-hit region of Myanmar, with 145 patients.

The Yangon regional Coronavirus Disease 2019 Control and Response Committee announced on Monday that the new mandatory order to wear face coverings would take effect in all 44 townships in the region on Wednesday.

Those breaching the committee’s orders and instructions will face legal action under the Prevention and Control of Communicable Disease Law. Citizens must follow the rules until further notice issue, the committee said.

According to the law, residents who violate restrictions imposed by either health authorities or local administrators will have to pay a fine of 5,000 to 50,000 kyats (US$3.60 to $36) or face a six-month jail term, depending on the decision of the court.

Apart from wearing face masks, the  latest order includes a ban on gatherings of more than four people, except for those carrying out official duties at government departments and organizations; those traveling to and from work at companies, factories and workshops; those transporting permitted commodities; court proceedings; those implementing permitted measures against COVID-19; those engaged in emergency rescue operations; those going to hospitals and clinics for health reasons; and those arranging funerals.

Yangon Regional Social Affairs Minister U Naing Ngan Lin told The Irrawaddy the order is a precautionary measure to prevent the further spread of the disease as more businesses and factories start resuming normal operations in Yangon.

When the rate of new COVID-19 cases slowed significantly in late April, many people started resuming normal activities and some businesses also started resuming operations. Many people stopped wearing masks in public and began to break social distancing rules, including by gathering in groups of more than five people. However, Myanmar reported 14 new cases last Thursday in the biggest single-day spike since mid-April, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS).

Other regions like Mandalay and Ayeyarwady have also issued local administrative orders to wear face masks or face fines.

In a previous order, Yangon residents were told to avoid entertaining guests at home as much as possible, to report to the relevant authorities if they have returned from a foreign country recently, and to report any suspected COVID-19 patients in their area or if they suspect they themselves may be carrying the disease.

During the Water Festival holiday period, Yangon residents were told to observe a strict 10-day “stay home” period from April 10 to April 19, except those involved in COVID-19 prevention, control and treatment activities. The MOHS also announced a conditional stay-at-home order covering seven Yangon townships where the most cases have been reported: Insein, Shwephyithar, Mayangone, Bahan, Pabedan, South Okkalapa and Hlaing Tharyar.

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