Covid-19 impact and responses: Myanmar

Updated on: 25 September, 2020

What is the current situation?

General information

  • The Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Surveillance Dashboard notes 1,419 confirmed cases, 8 deaths and 389 recovered. The Ministry of Health also publishes updated Covid-19 situation reports.
  • The ‘second wave’ of the pandemic has been happening since 16 August, with the outbreak mostly concentrated in Sittwe, Rakhnine State. It has now reached some townships in Yangon also. Most of the townships in Rakhine State are under orders to stay at home.
  • The government announced the closure of schools, public events (including Water Festival), large gatherings and religious events through several extensions until early August. Schools were reopened in the beginning of August but closed again at the end of August because of the second wave. The government has not announced the closure of shopping malls or other areas related to public service.
  • The Myanmar government announced that gatherings up to 35 people are allowed again.
  • On 3 May, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population announced that businesses could continue to open during the pandemic period in accordance with the health and safety guidelines from Ministry of Health. The inspection will be conducted once the workplace is ready. Employers should inform the respective labour departments for the inspection. The guidelines for inspection can be found at the bottom of this report.
  • On 1 September 2020, the Ministry of Health announced that 7 townships are to be put under ‘Stay at Home’ measures, since more than 3 local transmissions that are not traceable were found in these areas. This has been effective since 2 September. The townships are:
    • Thingangyun
    • Insein
    • North Okkalapa
    • Tharketa
    • Hlaing
    • Pazuntaung
    • Mingaladon
  • People in these townships can still go to work if necessary. Only one person from each household can go out for grocery shopping, two if it is for visiting the doctor and not more than 3 people in a car.
  • Currently, several townships in Yangon have put in place curfews from 12am to 4 m.
  • International flights are not allowed until the end of September.
  • On 1 September, the authorities of Nay Pyi Taw announced that:
    1. anyone visiting Nay Pyi Taw should bring recommendation letters from their respective townships
    2. anyone visiting Nay Pyi Taw without recommendation letters from ‘Stay at Home’ townships are to stay at Community Based Facility Quarantine centres for 14 days and be tested for COVID-19 twice during the stay. If the test comes back negative, they are to stay in Home Quarantine or Community Based Facility Quarantine for another 7 days before entering the Nay Pyi Taw Council area.
    3. anyone from ‘Stay at Home’ townships who are invited for business purposes with the ministry are to stay at Community Based Facility Quarantine centres for 7 days. On 5th day, a nasal swab will be taken. They will be allowed to carry out their agenda only if the test result is negative.
  • On 6 September, the administration of Mandalay announced that it adopted the same measures as Nay Pyi Taw.
  • News reports came out (in Burmese) that indicated that factory workers from Mingaladon, Hlaing Thar Yar and Mhawbi were found infected with COVID-19.
  • On 20 September 2020 the Ministry of Health and Sports instructed the whole of Yangon region, excluding Cocokyun township, to stay at home after more than 2,500 COVID-19 cases were reported in the region in the past 36 days. The announcement 107/2020 signed by the Health Minister states that with the increase in locally-transmitted cases (those without travel history or contact with an infected person), a number of measures will be imposed to curb the spread of the disease in the commercial capital. Among these, the instruction reads that workers from Cut-Make-Pack (i.e. garment) factories will not be allowed to go to work for two weeks, from 24 September to 7 October 2020.

The situation with factory production

  • Garment factories are allowed to reopen only after inspection, because they are not listed under ‘essential businesses’ according to the new announcement.
  • On 28 April, the Ministry made a more detailed announcement on cash assistance. It stated that for the insured workers registered under SSB, who are working in those factories, shops and establishments, according to the Social Security Law 2012 Article 13 (b)(2) and 100, the number of days without work will be compensated at 40% of their contribution in (1/2020). The employers of factories, shops and establishments that fall in with the aforementioned condition must inform the respective township SSB departments in order to obtain the SSB benefits for their insured workers. The aforementioned stipulations are effective from 28 April. In an interview with Ms Yin Yin Own, the deputy director of Social Security Board, she commented that this Social Security Benefit will be provided only for the work departments that have been inspected according to the recommendations and requirements from the Ministry for Health and Sport and approved to have complied accordingly.
  • The Myanmar Times reported on 28 April that, according to the Minister of Labour Immigration and Population, over 60,000 workers have lost their jobs since the start of the year due to closures and reduction of workforce in factories. 175 factories stopped operations and 105 factories have not been able to pay wages to the workers yet.
  • According to the interview on the Yangon Regional Minister on Immigration and Human Resources with Eleven Media Group on 30 April, there are about 120 factories which are permanently closed or temporarily suspended with a reduced number of workers. This number doubled within one month compared to 59 factories at the end of March. The minister said that it is hard to say the exact number of workers who have lost their jobs because some workers regained their jobs at the factories which have been able to reopen. Nevertheless, she said that it could be that 10,000 workers in Yangon are jobless, based on the March data. During the pandemic, most factories which have been affected are garment factories because of lack of orders and insufficient supply for raw materials. In the meantime, the Ministry of Labour is posting the job announcement from the factories which need workers and connect with those who lost jobs. The respective labour department is also issuing the labour registration card as fast as possible. Since most of the workers have been internally migrating to Yangon from other parts of the country in search of jobs, they are now in deep trouble.
  • No official figures have been announced yet.

What are the government policies to support local businesses?

On 18 March, the Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry announced the establishment of the Covid-19 Fund to help boost the economy. The initial 100 billion Myanmar Kyats (50 billion from Revolving Fund, and 50 billion from Social Security Board Fund), equivalent to approx. EUR 64.5 million, will be managed by the Myanmar Economic Bank. The fund is to provide support, in the form of low-interest loans, to the business sectors that are most affected by Covid-19:

  • Cut-Make-Pack (CMP – i.e. garment companies)
  • Hotel & Tourism
  • SMEs

The fund is to help the local business owners run the business and be able to pay wages. The loan with 1% interest rate will be available for one year. The eligible criteria is based on:

  • Registered local companies
  • Have the history of paying SSB fees regularly
  • Number of workers
  • Business capacity to survive with the loan and ability to pay back the loans

The first group of local businesses that received the loans was announced by the government on 28 April. Most of the manufacturing companies, including garment factories, received the loans. The list of companies can be found on UMFCCI Facebook.

In addition, the government decided to extend the deadline for payment of certain taxes. The deadline for payment of income tax, which is due on 31 March and 30 June, 2020, has been extended to 30 September, 2020 for all three sectors. Similarly, the deadline for payment of commercial tax, due from 31 March to 31 August, is also extended until 30 September, 2020.

Furthermore, UMFCCI Facebook notes that, effective 1 April 2020, the 2% interest rate on exports will be exempted for the 2019-2020 financial year.

The UMFCCI Facebook page further notes that on 24 March the Central Bank of Myanmar announced that the interest rate for savings and loans from the banks have been reduced by 1 percent. However, the government reduced the interest again up to 1.5% on 27 April. Effective 1 May, 2020, the specific regulations for the interest rates are as follows:

  • For current savings, bonds, fixed savings, the interest rate should not be lower than 2% of the Central Bank rate (8.5%-2%=6.5%)
  • For different mortgages such as land, buildings, gold, jewels, bonds, fixed account, pledge, credit guarantee etc., the maximum interest rate should not exceed more than 3% of Central Bank rate.

On 2 April, the UMFCCI announced that it has launched an online loan system for the coronavirus-hit businesses, according to the working committee, to remedy the economic impacts caused by Covid-19.

On 27 April, the government launched the ‘Overcoming as one: Covid-19 Economic Relief Plan’ which includes seven short term goals to be completed before the end of year. This includes the plans to provide monetary stimulus packages, exemption of tax and fees, easing the strains on banking sector and affected firms, promoting investment and international trade. For labour and workers, the plan is to provide health care benefits including medical and travel benefits for unemployed workers registered under the Social Security Board from six months to one year from the date of unemployment.

What are the government policies and regulations to protect employees – the workers?

On 6 April, the government released a statement indicating that people without regular income during the Thingyan holiday will be supplied with basic food starting from 10 April. Electricity bills up to 150 units per household was exempted for April. From 6 May, the government announced that an additional 75 units will be exemted per household from 1-15 May.

On 19 March, 2020, the Ministry of Health and Sports issued guidelines with instructions for factories and workplaces to prevent infections of Covid-19. The instructions were updated on 19 April and is available in English, thanks to translation by the ILO.

On 20 March, 2020, the Ministry of Labour issued an announcement for the employers to follow the appropriate procedures in accordance with the rules in SSB Law in case of factory closure:

  • The factory has to inform the Social Security Board (SSB) about the factory’s closure. The SSB team will investigate if the closure is indeed real. If so, SSB fee collection will be stopped.
  • When the factory reopens, the factory has to inform the SSB within 10 days after the opening date and pay the SSB fees. If the owner does not inform the SSB, s/he will be charged against the article 69 and 94 (b) of SSB Law.
  • The workers who were made redundant due to temporary or permanent factory closure are entitled to the following benefits under Article 73 of SSB Rule:
    • Healthcare up to 6 months of unemployment
    • A worker who has paid 4 months of SSB fees within the last 6 months before the sick day is entitled to the financial support of 60% of their 6 months’ salary.
  • If a worker pays 2 months SSB fees out of 3 months, or not is entitled for funeral compensation upon his/her death
  • Up to 6 months to cover the cost of medicines and transportation
  • Maternity benefits according to SSB law
  • In addition to the above benefits, those who pay 2% from the worker, and 2% from the employer, and were made redundant are entitled to:
    • Medical treatment
    • Maternity benefits according to article 73
    • Cost of medicines and transportation

(Source: Social Security Board)

  • SSB benefits for workers during the Covid-19 crisis:
BeneficiaryBenefit% of the salaryEntitled periodRequirementReference
Insured worker who is put under quarantinedCash benefit for sickness60% of average salary during the past 4 months28 days (facility quarantine 21 days and home quarantine 7 days)Registration period of 6 months and contribution period of 4 monthsThe Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population Social Security Board Notification (11/2020)
Insured sick worker (including COVID)Cash benefit for sickness60% of average salary during the past 4 monthsMaximum 26 weeksRegistration period of 6 months and contribution period of 4 monthsSocial Security Law 2012 Social Security Rule 2014
Insured pregnant workerCash benefit for pregnancy and sickness60% of average salary during the past 4 months8 weeks each time and maximum 26 weeksDuring COVID crisisThe Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population Social Security Board Notification (9/2020)
Insured workers from the factories and establishments that were temporarily closed to be inspected as per the Directive from 20 to 30th AprilRelief benefit40% of the January salaryFrom 20th April to the day of factory openingRegistered, insured worker who has been paying contribution until JanuaryThe Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population   Notification (83/2020)
The worker who become jobless because of the employerCash benefit for sickness60% of average salary during the past 4 monthsMax 26 weeksWithin 6 months from the day of unemploymentThe Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population   Notification (64/2020)
 Reimbursement of medical and travel costDepends on the % of actual cost Within  1 year from the day of unemployment 

What are local stakeholders doing to lobby their government?

  • In early March, 12 labour rights groups formed a committee to support demands that the government check factories to ensure that the reasons given for closing or suspending operations were genuine. Action Labour Rights (ALR) and other labour rights groups are also demanding that the government try to ensure that laid-off workers are reinstated in their former positions at the same salary.
  • The labour rights group is now urging the government to ensure that factories follow the health and safety guidelines from the Ministry of Health. Even though the factories have passed government inspection, the implementation of some factories is different from what they had prepared for the inspection team.
  • There is a watchdog committee created by the trade unions and labour organisations. Its purpose is to closely monitor factories which might run away or terminate workers, including union members, under the pretext of coronavirus. They also aim to ensure that the factories follow the proper rules in case of dismissals/closure according to the local labour laws, including paying wages. (Source: Future Light Center)

What are local organisations doing to support and protect workers?

  • The European Union will contribute EUR 5 million for rapid financial assistance to garment sector workers laid off amid the recent economic fallout from the pandemic. The SMART Textile & Garments project team will be working with Wave Money on this UNOPS managed project.
  • The EU Myan Ku Fund (this means ‘quick assistance’ in Myanmar language) will distribute emergency mobile money transfers to tens of thousands of affected garment workers across Myanmar. The EU Myan Ku Fund is started on 1 May and cash disbursements shall be distributed from then until 31 July. 
  • CTUM is selling dry food with low cost prices to workers and to the households in industrial zones.
  • Save the Children in Myanmar is providing direct cash assistance to the workers from two garment factories, Myanmar Royal Appolo garment factory in Shwepyitha Industrial Zone (2) and Suxin (Myanmar) garment factory in Shwelinban Industrial, Hlinethaya Township, in Yangon Region.
  • The Fifth Pillar, a local labour rights NGO, with support of Fair Wear, launched the Doe Lote Thar (‘Our Workers’) cash assistance programme. The programme was financially supported by Red Carpet Green Dress. To date, the Fifth Pillar has provided financial support of 144,000 MMK to 72 pregnant workers with RCGD fund. Fair Wear and The Fifth Pillar also coordinated with the Myan Ku to provide cash assistance for an additional 100+ pregnant workers who requested assistance under the Doe Lote Thar project.
  • The World Health Organization posted several informative documents to download (in Burmese) with advice for the public to: (1) Protect yourself and others from getting sick; (2) Stay healthy while travelling; (3) How to use mask; (4) How to hand rub? How to hand wash? (5) Learn how Covid-19 is spread? and (6) How to protect ourselves and others.
  • In a collaborative effort by LIFT and the Department of Social Welfare-Myanmar, and with funds provided by donors, more than 420,000 women and the elderly will receive additional cash support to help them and their families during Covid-19. The one-off cash payment of MMK 30,000 will be distributed to pregnant women, mothers with children under the age of 2 and to the elderly over the age of 85 across the country, with the cash distributions starting this week.
  • With the support from ILO Yangon, CTUM is working on the prevention of the virus and awareness-raising during the pandemic. CTUM is also collaborating with other organisations working on labour affairs. They have been:
    • Establishing curricula for basic training on virus protection with the doctors from Care Well
    • Attending PPE usage and disinfectant spraying training
    • Providing awareness-raising training on virus protection
    • Spraying disinfectants in the dormitories and houses of workers
    • Distributing pamphlets on Covid-19
    • Assisting the healthcare workers who are assigned at the gates where migrant workers enter. MICS is also distributing masks, hand gel to around 20,000 workers in Yangon.

What have been the responses and requests of business associations to support the industry?

  • On 18 March, the Facebook page of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) mentioned that, in order to have faster process of importing raw materials for the factories, MGMA announced to their member factories the following suggestions. According to the constructive suggestions from UMFCCI to the government:
    • The import/export under Repair and Return process can be done by the recommendation from CMP association without needing to submit the import/export license or permit from the Ministry of Commerce.
    • In order to prevent the shortage of supply, the custom department, Ministry of Commerce, will prioritise the delivery of raw materials for CMP only with the recommendation from CMP association.
  • MGMA is also assisting the application process of loans from the members from the Covid-19 Fund. South Korean and Chinese stakeholders in Myanmar are urging the authorities to review the possibility of providing a stimulus package for foreign investors in the local garment industry.
  • MGMA is also collecting data for closed factories and factories that laid off workers for assisting the Myan Ku project.

What are international brands doing to support suppliers and protect workers?

  • Four local garment factories are making face masks in response to soaring local demand.
  • Global ACT brands sourcing from Myanmar, suppliers and national and global trade unions have established a brand-employer-trade union dialogue to work towards protecting factories and workers from the worst impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and effective implementation of freedom of association in Myanmar’s garment and footwear industry.
  • Based on an initiative in Cambodia, GIZ, ILO Vision Zero Fund, H&M and Primark have teamed up to contextualise a communications campaign on Covid-19 prevention measures for workers and drivers to ensure safety during workers’ daily commute. The GIZ team has developed content for the Myanmar version (based on the relevant Myanmar guidelines). Posters for workers and drivers were developed which were approved by MoHS. To increase outreach, GIZ invited more stakeholders, such as Fair Wear, to join the initiative and support the dissemination.

Relevant links for more information

Ministry of Health and Sports: Guideline for prevention and control of coronavirus cisease 2019 (Covid-19) in factories, workplaces and construction sites (version 3.0)