Military officers who serve as members of Myanmar's parliament wear face masks and apply hand sanitizer before attending a regular session of the lower house on May 18 amid concerns over the spread of Covid-19. (Photo: Thet Aung/AFP)
Myanmar has extended preventive measures and directives to contain the spread of Covid-19.
On June 27, the National-level Central Committee for Prevention, Control and Treatment of Covid-19 announced that it had extended existing measures from June 30 to July 15 as it is required to continue containment of the pandemic.
It is the fifth time prevention and control measures have been extended since they were first imposed in April.
The extension covers all mass gatherings and religious activities at places such as temples, pagodas, churches and mosques.
The government has also extended temporary entry restrictions for visitors from all countries until July 31. It covers restrictions on all incoming travellers, suspension of all types of visas including social visit visas and visa exemption services.
Church officials say they will not resume public Masses and other liturgical ceremonies until preventive measures are lifted in compliance with the government's order to contain the coronavirus.
Churches were closed and services were moved online for daily and Sunday Masses as well as daily Bible reflections and adoration in mid-March.
“During these Covid times, church doors are closed but Christian hearts are always open to acts of love. Our rituals, prayers and communion all need to be centered on love,” said Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon.
He said Covid-19 is proving a painful lesson: humanity is fragile. but an invisible virus has proved to be invincible, infecting millions.
Archbishop Marco Tin Win of Mandalay has urged the faithful to use their time effectively by reading the Bible, reflections and other religious things through online programs.
He acknowledged that people are eager to attend church services and worship God, accept communion and do confession.
“But Jesus Christ is not only in the churches, we can feel and touch him at homes, workplaces and our journey,” Archbishop Tin Win said in a homily on June 28.
“We have to change our thinking and our lifestyle. We will never get back to normal. We need to start ourselves for a way of change.”
Myanmar has reported 299 cases of Covid-19 including six deaths and 218 recoveries, according to the latest data.
The most recent cases have been from returnees from abroad who are being held in quarantine facilities.
A total of 107 returnees tested positive from May 16 to June 24, according to the Health Ministry. These were 45 returnees from India, 22 from Thailand, 17 from Malaysia, nine from Bangladesh, eight from the United Arab Emirates, three from Qatar, two from Italy and one from China.
Yangon has the highest number of Covid-19 patients in the country with 204 cases. Kayah state in eastern Myanmar is the only region without any reported case.
“We didn’t feel small for our country in combating Covid-19. We could conspicuously confront the challenges even though we aren’t among the wealthiest countries in the region,” said State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.
“We need to move forward unswervingly in the middle way. It is an advantage that we need to share more understanding and empathy in this journey,” she wrote on her Facebook page on June 27.