YANGON, 16 August 2021: Myanmar’s Ministry of Hotel & Tourism says it will vaccinate all tourism and hospitality staff to enable hotels and guesthouses across the country to reopen.
In a top-level meeting with travel association chiefs and representatives last Tuesday, 10 August, the ministry said reopening hotels and guesthouses would need to comply with existing Covid-19 regulations established by the NLD government when it was still in power last December.
The ministry asked the tourism associations to assist in collecting lists of eligible people working in the tourism industry. A deadline of 20 August has been set for people to apply.
“Various departments in the Nay Pyi Taw region, state and townships across the country will distribute the jabs once staff employed by Myanmar Tourism Federation member companies are registered,” the ministry explained.
In a letter to 12 travel and hospitality associations, the office of the ministry’s director-general said name lists should be emailed to [email protected] and [email protected] (Hotels & Tourism department) not later than 20 August 2021.
Tourism workers will probably get a Chinese vaccine recently purchased by the military junta. Astra Zeneca vaccines purchased from India by the NLD government back in January 2021 have already been distributed to adults 60-plus and some hospitality staff.
Myanmar faces a public health crisis as the rate of Covid-19 is much higher than official statements acknowledge. Last week about 30 to 35% of people tested positive, but the testing capacity is meagre and limited to around 10.000 per day. This limitation means Myanmar remains well down the table showing new daily Covid cases (4443 new cases on 10 August according to the Myanmar junta – source Frontier Myanmar).
In reality, the total daily news cases could easily be 10 times higher as the population of Myanmar is around 54 million people. Also, a lack of trust in the military means sick people avoid government hospitals, Covid-19 testing centres or military-run quarantine facilities. Instead, they try to self-treat at home with help from online consultations and volunteers groups from the private sector.
In the meantime, the military embarked on limited vaccinating programmes. According to a press release in the junta’s New Light of Myanmar newspaper on 29 July, aviation staff got the first batch of jabs. Despite the emphasis on airline and aviation-related staff, the Ministry of Hotel & Tourism omitted to mention reopening international flights to Myanmar when announcing it would reopen hotels and guesthouses.
Yangon International airport closed to all commercial flights in March 2020 with the exception of a few relief flights. Myanmar residents who return to the country are subject to a 10 days quarantine in a designated hotel.
Relief flights are operated by Myanmar National Airlines, which is fully government-owned and Myanmar Airways International (MAI), which is partly government-owned. Also, one of Myanmar’s tycoon families owns a fleet of ATR operated by the domestic carrier Air KBZ that is also working closely with MAI.
The same group also owns KBZ bank faced heavy social media criticism that caused the bank’s popularity to plummet on Android and Apple stores rankings. Critics accused the bank of freezing bank accounts and donations made to volunteer groups supporting the fight against Covid and the military junta. The bank did not respond to the allegations in the Coconuts Yangon report earlier this week.
The ministry directive requesting names list of tourism staff eligible for jabs was presented to the chairpersons of the following trade associations on 10 August.
Myanmar Tourism Federation
Myanmar Hoteliers Association
Union of Myanmar Travel Association (UMTA)
Myanmar Tourism Marketing Association
Myanmar Hospitality Professionals Association
Myanmar Restaurants Association
Myanmar Tourism Transportation Association
Myanmar Souvenirs Manufacturers and Distributor Association
Domestic Pilgrimage Tours Operators Association
Myanmar Tourism Healthcare Association
Myanmar Tour Guide Association
Myanmar Tourism Human Resource Development Association