Yangon’s government is considering whether to cancel the annual water festival due to concerns about spread of the coronavirus after three suspected fatalities.
While the city may cancel the Thingyan celebrations which this year run April 13-16, as Deputy Mayor Soe Lwin told Eleven Media Group yesterday, officials in local townships would be left to make their own decisions.
“In the first meeting, we decided to make the Thingyan festival lively. But it may change now. We need to monitor the coronavirus outbreak,” Soe Lwin said. He added that city hall is waiting instructions from the Ministry of Health to determine whether they should go ahead with construction of the city mayor’s mandat, as festival stages hosting live entertainment are called.
Three people – one each from Shan, Rakhine and Mandalay states – died on Thursday and Friday under conditions indicative of COVID-19. Health officials Friday denied that any were infected by the virus.
Myanmar still says it has zero infections within its borders, a claim met with broad skepticism given its lack of testing and growing outbreaks in neighboring nations.
Still, health ministry spokesperson Khin Khin Gyi told reporters that Myanmar had no confirmed because it was far from Wuhan, China, where the virus originally broke out in mid-December.
“Hubei province is 1,200 miles away from our country,” she told journalists at a Friday news conference. “This geographical factor is preventing the disease from spreading to us. We are fortunate.”
Last week, 3,000 COVID-19 test kits donated by Singapore arrived in the country, along with health equipment from the United States.
While canceling Thingyan would hurt businesses, it might be a sensible precaution, given that it brings many in close proximity.
Last year, 35 mandats were built downtown. While traditional music and dance go off on the mayor’s mandat, privately operated stages usually pulse with electronic dance music and free-flowing booze, where young crowds dance in the streets and ring in the new year to the beats of international DJs. In other words, quite contrary to the WHO’s advice that people stay at least 1 meter apart.