Yangon University’s 100 birthday party annoys pandemic-ravaged city

The University of Yangon turns 100 tomorrow, but its incipient centenary is already annoying people.

Scenes of large crowds mingling on the campus without social distancing are the top source of online controversy today for Yangoners, given that the school is located in the Kamayut Township, where stay-at-home orders are in effect to stem the spread of COVID-19.

“What word could be stronger than ‘disappointed’ for health care workers to say in Myanmar when they see these pictures?” wrote Ar Kar, assistant Health Ministry director, in reply to photos of what appeared to be hundreds swarming the decorated campus on Saturday.

The university even posted a few images from the first night of its celebration.

While administrators say they urged people to stay six feet apart and wear masks, that was not apparent in photos of tightly packed crowds.

It comes as Yangon’s hospitals have reached capacity and health care workers strained by the influx of COVID-19 patients in recent days, believed to have been fueled by the Nov. 8 election  and full moon holidays last week.

“Yangoners must have already gotten their COVID-19 vaccines!” Facebooker Khin War Hlaing wrote sarcastically in reply.

On Sunday, Myanamar reported 1,509 new cases, mostly in Yangon. New cases have hovered above 1,000 since late September after the nation’s outbreak began in earnest mid-August. A total of 89,486 infections and 1,918 deaths have been logged since the start of the year.

Yangon currently has just over 38,000 patients to treat. Khin Khin Gyi of the Health Ministry pleaded with the public to stay home, warning how deadly COVID-19 is with a clip of a U.S. mother’s plea just before she died.

Since the second outbreak began in August, travel has been restricted and restaurants shut down as precautionary measures. But some restaurant owners argue they should be allowed to reopen if people are still going out.

The Myanmar Restaurant Business Association sent a letter to the Yangon Division government asking that it allow restaurants to reopen in Yangon in accordance with COVID-19 health directives.

“Restaurant owners also want to reopen their shops because they can no longer afford to pay a lot of rent, salaries and staff salaries. If they continue to do so for the next two months, many restaurants will not be able to recover,” Nay Lin, association chairman, told reporters last week.

But the campus wasn’t the only place people less than concerned about an outbreak showing few signs of slowing. Just yesterday, Yangon’s Mahabandoola Park was packed with visitors yesterday celebrating the last day of the Tazaungdaing full moon festival.


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