The Myanmar Government announced today it will reopen land border crossings with China and Thailand next month ahead of a planned resumption of international air travel by the end of the first quarter of 2022, as vaccination rates have improved significantly amid clear signs of economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Minister of Information Mr Maung Maung Ohn said travel restrictions will be eased by January 2022 at Muse which borders Ruili city in China’s Yunnan Province and at the three Myanmar towns of Tachileik, Kawthaung and Htee Kee which border Thailand. Travel at border crossings with Laos, India and Bangladesh are currently permitted due to lower incidences of infection.
Status of COVID-19 Infection Rates, Deaths & Vaccinations Between the first case of pandemic infection in the country on 23 March 2020 to 12 November 2021 (20 months) Myanmar’s Ministry of Health has recorded 511,717 cases of infection and 18,899 deaths because of COVID-19.
In the week (to 12 November) a daily average of 919 new confirmed cases was detected with a positivity rate of 4.2% while 20 deaths were recorded–a fatality rate of 2.3%. These compare with 3,901 new confirmed cases (positivity rate of 30.8%) and 172 deaths (fatality rate of 8.1%) in the first week of August 2021. The numbers of new confirmed cases and deaths have fallen to 76.4 per cent and 88.5 per cent, respectively, over the comparative periods.
The Government continues to receive vaccines through donations and national procurement programmes. Most of the vaccines are from China.
As of 12 November 2021, the Health Ministry had administered at least one dose of vaccine each to 14.4 million citizens above the age of 18, or 42.5% of the population.
This will increase to 50% of the population by end of 2021. To date, over 21 2 million have administered doses of various vaccines. By April 2022, Myanmar would have sufficient vaccines to inoculate the entire population.
“Our priority is the health and well-being of each citizen. The vaccinations are being carried out with no discrimination, including of prisoners and members of ethnic armed organisations. However, some individuals who had been involved in civil disturbance activities are reluctant to register for vaccination, especially in major cities,” said Minister Mr Maung Maung Ohn.
Procedures To Prepare for Resumption of Air Travel in Q1 2022 With the fall in infection and fatality rates and the acceleration of the vaccination programme, the State Administration Council is speeding up the resumption of social and economic activity to restore national stability following the challenges of the pandemic and the internal social unrest.
To prepare to resume international air travel, six Government ministries are coordinating efforts to standardise testing and safety procedures such as social distancing, contact tracing and quarantine and vaccination status certification, the Minister said.
“Air travel is important to facilitate the return of Myanmar citizens, expatriates, aid and development workers, and international business travel. We ensure that hotels, transportation, health facilities, airports and airline operators are ready to meet the standard operating procedures. We will keep various embassies informed of progress,” he said.
“We are cautiously assessing infection rates abroad ahead of the European winter.
Once our vaccination programme reaches targets and if global infection rates drop, we intend to resume international air travel in the first quarter of 2022,” he said.
“This will benefit not just tourism but also commercial activity and bilateral social, cultural and development activities and exchanges. In recent months, we have received substantial foreign interest in investments and business opportunities.
These parties are eager to travel to Myanmar to conclude transactions,” he added. Re-Opening of Schools & Universities With most students above 18 already vaccinated, the Ministry of Education has reopened schools. In the first phase that began 1 November 2021, all schools from Grade 1 to 11 (except those in 46 townships)–involving over 473,000 students–were reopened. About a quarter-million tertiary students will resume studies next month when universities and colleges reopen.
Since the re-opening of schools, there has been no incident of pandemic infection or fatality. This is due to the vaccination programme and health procedures.
As some teachers have not returned to work because of social disturbances and fear of their safety, nearly 7,000 new teachers and over new 3,700 tertiary educators have been appointed in recent months to make up for the shortfall.
Economic Recovery and Resumption of Social Activity
Despite clear evidence of economic sabotage and the effects of the pandemic, economic activity has largely restarted across most parts of the country with the onset of the dry season last month, the Minister said. The Myanmar Government has introduced emergency economic relief as grants to farmers, and to the fisheries and livestock sectors. It has also extended credit to rice exporters and helping small and medium enterprises.
The Minister noted that the Myanmar currency has strengthened from as low as 2,500 kyats last month to about 1,800 kyats currently. This underscores the economic recovery and success of efforts to counter rumours about the currency. The Central Bank of Myanmar recently strengthened online transactions, introduced incentives and other measures to reduce regulatory red tape, and conducted a regular dialogue with local banks to maintain trust.
“Myanmar is recovering from challenges of a health pandemic, an economic downturn, and social and political disturbances. The vaccination programme and the economic recovery efforts are gaining momentum. However, the police and security forces must abide by the law and carry out their duties.
“Business confidence is returning, especially in major cities where religious activities recently have all been well attended. The resumption of air travel will be an important catalyst for tourism, the return of foreign investments and international business activities,” Minister Maung Maung Ohn added.
Edited by: Stephen Morton
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