THE MYANMAR Government will reopen its 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.

According to Minister of Information, 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.

“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 a total of 511,717 cases of infection and 18,899 deaths due to COVID-19,” he said.

In the week (to 12 November) a daily average of 919 new confirmed cases were 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% and 88.5%, 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 at 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 more than 21 million doses of various vaccines have been administered. 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 without any 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,” Minister Maung Maung Ohn stated.

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 program, the State Administration Council is accelerating 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 as well as vaccination status certification.

“Air travel is important to facilitate the return of Myanmar citizens, expatriates, aid and development workers, and international business travel. We must 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 noted.

Maung Maung Ohn explained that 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.

“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. [sources/photo special]