Yangoners barred from moving around city as COVID-19 infections top 10,000

Photo: Min Ye Kyaw
Photo: Min Ye Kyaw

If Yangon police stop you on the city’s roads today, it will probably be to tell you to return home unless you’re seeking medical attention.

Fourteen days after the nation crested 3,000 known COVID-19 cases, that number tripled 10,734 as of last night, with 226 fatalities counted and infections spreading out of control, prompting city authorities to block travel outright between its wards starting this morning.

Police are stopping all vehicles except buses operated by the Yangon Bus Service, or YBS, leaving much of the population stuck at home with no better outlet than social media.

“Beware everybody! There’s a countdown on the roads today!” Facebooker Zin Toe Aung wrote yesterday.

“Those who take YBS are allowed to infect, but not those taking personal vehicles!” Ye Hein wrote sarcastically.

Trips outside of one’s ward are only allowed by permission of their local office. The new rules came into effect at 8am this morning in all townships currently under stay-home orders. That hasn’t stopped crowds from carrying on as normal in some parts of town, or candidates from campaigning outside Yangon in the run-up to the November election.

Footage from the road on Sunday showed officers stopping cars to warn drivers that trips outside would not be allowed otherwise.

Nonetheless, every day has been a bad one for all Yangoners given the rampant spread of the coronavirus, with nearly 750 new cases detected just yesterday. Local officials say people aren’t taking it seriously enough.

“Investigations are underway because we found out people were not very responsive to our new rules. It’s just a reminder today. We will be taking serious actions starting from tomorrow,” Thein Zaw Oo of the Kamayut Township Office told reporters today.

Last week, Yangon’s regional government weighed plans to feed every Yangoner as the pandemic is affecting their livelihoods. The Central Committee on Prevention, Control and Treatment of COVID-19 asked township officials to draw up the logistics necessary to feed every registered household in the municipal area, a population exceeding seven million.

Few corners seem unspared. At least 279 Yangon monks at the Insein Ywama Monastery were recently infected and are being treated at Tatmadaw (military) hospitals in Hmawbi township.

“We’ve been very careful yet the virus came to us in an unexpected way,” monastery spokesmonk Ganda Thara Lingara told BBC Burmese.


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