Like the groundhog driven underground by its own shadow, Yangon has plunged back into pandemic lockdown measures just as the economy was seeing light again.
Venue owners forced to bar customers from their shops today expressed dismay about the new round of orders that are closing businesses, imposing a curfew and restricting travel as a second wave of COVID-19 infections, these emanating from Rakhine State, grips the ever-bustling city.
“I can’t sleep at night thinking about it,” Kaung of Pyay Road’s Beer Vibe restaurant told Coconuts Yangon after he was ordered to shut down and cut sales to takeaway-only.
Myanmar as of this morning has logged 1,610 cases, a dramatic increase over the 409 reported under a month ago. Thirty-nine of 54 new cases reported yesterday were in Yangon.
Pyae Phyo of the MadameEm cocktail bar on New University Road said the anxiety hit home with the order handed down Sunday.
“Everything was getting a little better and then, now, it is becoming a little worse,” he said.
Under the new orders, every restaurant must operate only takeaway services as of today. And that’s not all: The public is ordered to remain home under a midnight to 4am curfew.
“We have given them time … to rubber-stamp the service for only delivery options. And it has to be followed until further notice,” Hla Htay of the Mingalar Taung Nyunt ministerial office told Myanmar Times yesterday, noting that the public was following the rules “very well.”
Those who must quarantine upon arrival in Yangon need only do so for two weeks. Khin Gyi from the health ministry said the period had been reduced because the virus spreading in Yangon in cannot be transmitted after 11 days. She added that those who recover from COVID-19 won’t need to stay any longer than four days at a hospital for another test.
In Yangon’s Thingangyun township, where the most new cases have emerged, the decision to shut down the eateries and other food stalls had already been made earlier last week. Although wholesales markets and big retailers such as Citymart and Makro are still open so people can stock up on food and essentials, other goods are prohibited from sale, according to Maung Maung Oo, Thingangyun MP.
The authorities said they would investigate and prosecute those violating containment measures. Businesses risk permanent closure and loss of their licenses in addition to fines and jail time for their owners. A reported 647 people have received one-month jail sentences for violating the curfew, as of Saturday.
While Myanmar was late in detecting its first case and saw relatively few episodes, its outbreak spiked mid-August. Business had been getting back to normal until a single domestic transmission in Sittwe quickly spilled beyond its borders. The official death toll stands at eight.
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