Covid-19 impact and responses: Myanmar

Updated on: 20 August 2020

What is the current situation?

General information

  • As of 20th August, 2,590 new Covid-19 cases were identified out of 11,546 tests, i.e., a positivity rate of 22.4%. 159 people died from the disease, i.e., a total of 13,945 deaths since March 2020. To track the COVID-19 situation in Myanmar, please find useful resources Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Surveillance Dashboard (Myanmar) by MoHS and an independent dashboard COVID Myanmar Dashboard( covidmyanmar.com).
  • The ‘third wave’ of the pandemic has been declared as of June 2021, with the outbreak mostly concentrated in Yangon, Mandalay and Bago. It has now reached to many urban and rural locations.
  • The authorities announced the extension of public holidays for 7 days from 16 August until 22 August. All educational facilities will remain closed, as well as banks. However, factories, offices and companies can continue to operate. 
  • Mandalay Region Government is imposing a Stay-at-Home order between 09:00 and 15:30 Hrs from 16 to 29 July, apart from government duty, healthcare and funerals, in the five downtown townships (Aungmyaythazan, Chanayethazan, Maha Aung Myay, Chanmyatharzi and Pyigyitakon). The order limits the number of streets that vehicles can use in these five townships and bans vehicles from parking on them. The order means that residents may go to markets or leave their homes between 04:00 and 09:00 Hrs and between 15:30 and 18:00 Hrs, provided they have a card permitting them to leave home.
  • A temporary ban on domestic flights to/from certain airports was extended until 31 August: 
    • Dawei, Myeik, and Kawthaung Townships (Tanintharyi Region) 
    • Kalay Township (Sagaing Region) 
    • Tachileik, Lashio, and Kengtung Townships (Eastern Shan State)
  • Vaccine update:  Since July, 4 million doses of Sinovac vaccines have arrived in Myanmar: 2 million doses purchased from China, and 2 million donated by Beijing; 2 million of Sinopharm doses, bought by the Myanmar authorities, are expected to arrive to Myanmar later this month. Myanmar’s Chinese Chamber of Commerce (MCCOC) is planning to arrange a Sinopharm vaccination drive at a subsidized price. China also supplied doses through different channels to some EAOs close to its borders.
  • Stay-at-home order: In total, 111 townships are now under Stay-at-home notice in Myanmar
  • Officially, under Stay-at-Home Order, only one person per household may travel outside for the purchase of essential goods and only two people per household shall be permitted to travel for hospital or clinic visits. Wearing facemask is in mandatory outdoor spaces. Vehicles transporting people to/from work and those with official permits may move between townships. According to MoH announcement, people are not allowed to go to work, except for the following professions:
    • Civil servants
    • Bank workers
    • Petrol station staff
    • Foodstuff and purified water industry workers
    • Medicine and medical product production and distribution employees
    • Factory workers producing daily personnel goods and related industries
    • Airline staff
    • Port and harbour staff
    • Internet and telecommunications staff (exclusive of sales of telephone and data at shops

The situation with factory production

  • Most of the factories are currently not following any COVID-19 preventive measures or guidelines issued by WHO or any authorities.
  • Garment factories are still operating with limited workforce. Although SAC announced the extension of public holidays till 22 August, factories, offices and companies are excluded and continue to operate according to Ministry of Labour, FGLLID notice on 1st August.
  • Factories have been collecting the signatures of workers who want to take the COVID-19 vaccine since mid-July and start vaccinated after getting approval from authorities on 11 August. Factories in Yangon, Mandalay, Bago and Ayarwaddy were in the first round vaccination program. Many workers are refusing to be vaccinated for different reasons including fear of potential side effects or fear of job loss if they get sick after the injection.

What are the government policies to support local businesses?

  • The authorities announced the extension of public holidays for 7 days from 16 August until 22 August. All educational facilities will remain closed, as well as all the banks.
  • However, factories, offices and companies can continue to operate. According to SAC’s announcement on 1st August and 14th August, factories and companies are allowed to operate under the supervision of Ministry of Labour, Nay Pyi Taw Council, Regions/States Administration in line with Covid-19 rules of Ministry of Health. The Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce & Industry (UMFCCI) also clarified that industries, companies and factories are allowed to operate during public holidays.

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

  • Due to weak inspection and oversight by authorities, many factories have not followed any COVID-19 regulations and guidelines including non-compliance with previously issued rules. In most factories, workers have to buy their own masks, there is not enough hand sanitizers or handwash basin, no split lunchtimes but only one lunchtime for the whole workforce without enough space, no temperature check, no physical distancing in production lines and crowded in ferry etc. In addition, many factories have more or less sick people and some got COVID patients and deaths. Despite the deaths of COVID, factories continue to operate without informing the relevant authorities about death cases. Therefore, workers do not want to go to work for fear of infection. But most of workers still go to work since they care more about salary cut if they do not go to work. Accurate data may not be available on the ground due to employers’ failure to notify. However, there will surely be COVID infections, and if one person is infected, there is an 80% chance that all workers in the factory will be infected.
  • Therefore, for the sake of protecting workers from COVID-19 spread in the factories, business owners are encouraged to follow the guidelines with instructions for factories and workplaces to prevent infections of Covid-19 issued by former Ministry of Health and Sports on 19 March, 2020 updated on 19 April and is available in English.

What are local stakeholders doing to lobby their government?

  1. Myanmar Humanitarian Fund (MHF): inclusive consultation with 33 partners (7 national NGOs, 22 INGOs and 4 UN agencies – As of 31 July 2021, these partners are implementing (or starting to implement) a total of 57 projects amounting USD 24.6 million across Myanmar including Chin, Magway, Rakhine, Kachin, Shan, Kayah, Bago and Kayin. In total, MHF funded partners have targeted above 400,000 people on COVID-19 related activities since 1 June 2021, for a total of $1.3 million. (Summary note as of 13 August is attached)
  2. US Pledges 50 million USD – On 4 August, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman had a virtual meeting with NUG Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Zin Mar Aung. This was the first official meeting between the US authorities and the NUG. On 11 August, the US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield held a video call with Dr. Cynthia Maung, a well-known doctor appointed by the NUG as leader of its Covid-19 task force. The ambassador pledged 50 million USD support to the people of Myanmar in the context of Covid-19 response. She made it clear that aid would be channeled through INGOs and other non-State players. Myanmar authorities are not expected to be involved; however, they might choose to move and intervene in the system, for instance as a regulator. 

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

  • MGMA has been supporting the industry by helping the member factories carry out the products and goods for import and export process smoothly, operating member’ service, and solving the difficulties faced by members on workers’ salaries withdrawal from banks, meeting with different stakeholders including SAC for smooth process and helping members to get approval for COVID vaccination for workers. the Facebook page of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA)

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)