Myanmar suspends Chinese visas on arrival in wake of coronavirus outbreak

Myanmar on Saturday announced the temporary suspension of visas on arrival for Chinese tourists.

The decision, declared effective immediately, comes in response to the rapidly spreading coronavirus, which originated in the city of Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province.

It comes after a 56-year-old Chinese passenger on a China Southern Airlines flight from Guangzhou landed on Friday at Yangon International Airport with flu-like symptoms.

That passenger was sent to Yangon’s Waibagi Infectious Diseases Hospital and placed in an isolated ward for further observation.

“We’ve told all necessary departments today to temporarily suspend the issuance of visas on arrival to Chinese tourists to protect the health of Myanmar citizens and to prevent the spread of the virus,” Myanmar’s foreign affairs ministry said in a statement Saturday.

On Friday the president’s office announced the formation of a “Central Committee to Prevent, Control and Treat the 2019 Novel Coronavirus,” a day after the World Health Organization declared the disease a global health emergency.

Authorities also said they will evacuate 63 Myanmar students currently studying at universities in Wuhan with a charter flight Saturday at midnight. The flight is expected to land in Mandalay early Sunday morning.

Last week the Mandalay regional government formed a surveillance and response team tasked with quarantining those students and responding to the disease’s spread in Mandalay, a hotspot for Chinese tourists.

But Myanmar labs are unable to diagnose the virus, and the National Health Laboratory will have to transfer swab samples from suspected patients to labs in neighboring Thailand.

There are currently 12,024 cases of coronavirus confirmed globally so far, and 11,860 in China, according to China’s National Health Commission. As of Saturday evening, 259 cases had proved fatal in China.

In the year following Myanmar’s decision to grant visas on arrival for passport-holding Chinese tourists, in October 2018, the number of tourists from mainland China doubled to nearly 750,000.

In 2019, Myanmar welcomed more than 4.36 million tourists worldwide, according to data from the ministry of hotels and tourism.

Related Articles

Back to top button