Myanmar cancels Marian celebration due to Covid-19 fears

Cardinal Bo urges Catholics to pray at the national Marian shrine
Myanmar cancels Marian celebration due to Covid-19 fears

Flight attendants wear face masks at Yangon airport. Myanmar’s health ministry says the country remains free of Covid-19 as suspected patients' tests were negative. (Photo: AFP)

Church officials in Myanmar have decided that the annual Marian celebration will not be held this year due to fears over the fast-spreading coronavirus.

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon urged Catholics to go and pray at the national Marian shrine as families and as organizations after the decision.

“We have canceled it to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. Myanmar’s health ministry has declared the coronavirus an epidemic or notifiable disease and it is very concerned over the fast spread of the disease in several countries,” Cardinal Bo said in a short notice on Feb. 29.

The 118th anniversary of Our Lady of Lourdes was initially slated to be held from Feb. 7-16, with thousands of Catholics and non-Catholics from across expected to take part in the celebrations.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar issued a statement on Feb. 6 that the annual Marian celebration had been postponed and it would announce the new dates later.

The feast has been held in Nyaunglebin in Yangon Archdiocese since 1902 and the Church has designated it a national pilgrimage center. Cardinal Bo, who is also president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, has called for “universal brotherhood of humanity” over the coronavirus

“We extend our deepest sympathies to people and countries affected by this lethal virus. It is not a time for mutual blame. Let us remember every brother and sister affected in our prayers every day,” Bo said in a message on Feb. 24.

“Let Masses and adorations be held in every church for our suffering brothers and sisters. Myanmar Church accompanies all the brothers and sisters and countries affected by this sad plight with prayers,” the 72-year-old cardinal said.

“Humanity will overcome because it has more grace to be compassionate. This time too our oneness will overcome this deadly pandemic.”

Myanmar’s health ministry announced that the Southeast Asian nation remains free of Covid-19 as suspected patients' tests showed negative.

On Feb. 28, the ministry declared the coronavirus an epidemic or notifiable disease under the Prevention and Control of Communicable Diseases Law to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

The ministry also warned that anyone who falls sick with the virus must report to the authorities and those who fail to do so face a month in prison or a fine of 30,000 kyats (US$21).

According to Article 9 of the diseases law, relatives or an employer of someone with symptoms are required to report immediately to their nearest clinic or hospital.

It also advised officials to allow only essential public gatherings and urged people to follow the guidelines regarding prevention and avoid crowded places and gatherings.

Between Jan. 31 and Feb. 29, officials tested 45 people who showed symptoms of the disease, but all the results came back negative, according to the health ministry's latest announcement.

Two students from Wuhan, China, whom the Indian navy evacuated will reportedly return to Myanmar after being quarantined for 14 days in a hospital in New Delhi.

Those two were left behind when Myanmar’s government evacuated 59 students from Wuhan on Feb. 1 as they had fever.

Myanmar was sending samples from suspected patients to test in Thailand but Myanmar has started testing at its own facility after acquiring medical kits to verify the suspected cases of Covid-19 since Feb. 20.

As of March 2, 3,058 people have died from Covid-19 out of 89,083 confirmed cases worldwide.

South Korea has had 21 deaths and 3,730 confirmed cases, making it the worst-affected country outside mainland China.

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