Updated: Jun 21, 2020
YANGON - Most companies, shops and restaurants in Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyitaw fully resumed operations on Monday as Myanmar has gradually eased COVID-19 restrictions after no new local transmissions of the disease were reported for two weeks.
Myanmar has seen no local transmissions of COVID-19 since May 18, though there were 44 imported cases. There have been no reported deaths in more than a month- the country saw its sixth death from the coronavirus on April 29.
Last Thursday, Myanmar began allowing gatherings of more than five people at government offices, companies, factories, schools and trainings.
According to the Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS), the following groups are also allowed to gather with more than five people: people who are going to work at government offices, companies or factories; children, parents and teachers going to schools and trainings; and people going out to eateries that are following preventive measures for COVID-19.
After the government confirmed the country’s first cases of COVID-19 in late March, MOHS banned public gatherings of five or more people on April 16. The ministry did allow people to gather while going to and from work and at markets.
Since late March, many tea shops and restaurants were open only for takeaway and delivery service.
Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said on her Facebook last Thursday that some restrictions would be lifted. She also asked the public to keep following the instructions and guidelines of COVID-19 preventative measures as obeying to the rules can support the government in preventing the spread of the disease.
Dr. Than Naing Soe, MOHS spokesperson, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that Myanmar will be able to say it has controlled the COVID-19 pandemic locally when no new local transmissions have been reported for 45 days.
“COVID-19 is a long-term battle for us. It could take years if [the world] can’t find the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Dr. Than Naing Soe.
He also said that people need to protect themselves by cooperating and following COVID-19 guidelines from MOHS.
All government employees returned to their offices on Monday after half of them had been ordered to stay home since on March 25, according to MOHS.
Ma Khin, assistant general manager for American fast food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) in Myanmar, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that customers are allowed to dine-in at 15 of the chain’s 45 branches in Myanmar as the company has set up COVID-19 preventative measures in accordance with guidelines from MOHS.
“But most of our customers still use takeaway or the delivery system,” said Ma Khin.
KFC has prohibited customers from eating meals at its shops since March.
Mandalay has allowed bus companies to resume operations after being told to suspend service since April, as long as they meet the guidelines for COVID-19 preventative measures.
MOHS also said on Sunday that the government’s regular vaccination programs, which had been stopped since April 1, would resume Monday.
Ko Phoe Soe Thu, of public relations company Rice Communication, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that their staff adopted a new system on Monday, with half their staff back in the office for a week while the rest are working from home. Since March, the company had been rotating staff through the office so that they worked from home three days per week.
Myanmar currently conducts about 1,500 COVID-19 tests per day, according to Dr. Than Naing Soe. As of Tuesday morning, Myanmar had conducted 27,077 COVID-19 tests.
Myanmar has reported a total 228 COVID-19 cases, including 70 imported cases and 138 recoveries.