Tourism & coronavirus : Burma in denial ?

A few days ago we discussed the coronavirus situation in Indonesia ( ). This earned us the wrath of the representative of the tourist office in France. Today, we are talking about Burma… La Quotidienne obviously loves all these wonderful countries, but unfortunately, the lack of reaction of certain leaders to the current pandemic is worrying.

Indonesia will have a hard time making up for lost time.

Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo and his government have received much criticism for their handling of the Covid-19 outbreak in their country. Indonesia lost valuable time preparing for a pandemic that has already ravaged other countries with stronger health systems.

But apart from the issue of medical logistics, political leaders must overcome the cultural barrier of imposing social distancing measures in a country with a very strong sense of communitarianism.

Several days ago, 8,000 people gathered at an Islamic rally in Gowa, South Sulawesi, despite objections from local authorities. One can imagine, unfortunately, the devastation that this great country of more than 250 million people will suffer.

Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi are in denial.

According to Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, her country stands out as a global exception without a single reported case of Covid-19.

She dared to say: « So far, no one in our country is infected with Covid-19 « . Zaw Htay, a government spokesman, said at a press conference on March 14 that « Covid-19 is still not present in Myanmar. The government and the Ministry of Health are releasing real news… the lifestyle and diet of Myanmar’s citizens are beneficial against the coronavirus. ».

Burma shares a border with China.

Burma shares a 2,100 kilometre border with China. Large numbers of people cross the Myanmar-China border daily and unofficially for trade and work. As a reminder, the country has a population of more than 54 million people.

Many Burmese workers are returning from Thailand.

The likelihood of undetected Covid-19 cases being imported by a recent wave of Burmese workers returning from Thailand. It is estimated that at least 32,000 of them have passed through a land border. There have been no health checks!

Bijay Karmacharya, the top official of UN-Habitat (a programme dedicated to human settlements and sustainable urban development), like many others, have reasonable grounds to doubt the government’s assessment given the limited number of people who were actually tested. Moreover, health facilities are almost non-existent in most rural areas and hospitals in cities are ill-equipped to deal with a possible outbreak of Covid-19.

Authorities deny the infections despite the facts

Myanmar’s health authorities quickly denied that any deaths were linked to Covid-19.

At least 11 patients with symptoms indicative of the virus died under observation, including in Shan and Rakhine States and in Mandalay, Bago and Magway regions. The authorities stated that they had died of other causes.

A first official death

A 69-year-old man with nasal cancer died on 31 March at Waibargi Hospital. He had tested positive on March 26 after suffering from symptoms such as fever, cough and sore throat. Prior to that, he had travelled to Australia for medical treatment for a month and then travelled to Singapore for a short period of time.

April 2, 2009

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