Following the first recorded cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Myanmar on 23 March 2020, the Myanmar Government has responded with the issuance of several notifications and guidelines as part of efforts to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.

Coordination of Governmental Activity

Notification No. 53/2020: Formation of the Committee for Control and Emergency Response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (Notification 53/2020)

Notification 53/2020 establishes the Committee for Control and Emergency Response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (Committee).

The Committee comprises of 10 members, which include high level government ministers such as the Vice President 1, Union Minister for Defence, Union Minister for Border Affairs, Union Minister for Home Affairs, and Union Minister for Labour, Immigration and Population.

The Committee is tasked with a wide range of functions including the investigation, detection and handling of persons infected with COVID-19, and coordination of various governmental and non-governmental organisations to respond to COVID-19 cases. The functions also extend to implementing measures to ensure the operation of essential functions and impose community quarantine as necessary, and the initiation of enforcement action against profiteering and the dissemination of false information.

The Committee is also mandated to establish a secretary office of the Committee at the Ministry of Home Affairs, which will be responsible for functions such as setting COVID-19 related emergency call number(s), the control and treatment of COVID-19 and the coordination between Union Ministers and regional/state governments.

Control of, and regulation over, Essential Supplies

Notification No. 21/2020 and Notification No. 22/2020 relating to the prohibition of price increases and hoarding of Essential Supplies (as defined below) and conferring of power to the Department of Consumer Affairs to enforce the prohibition (Notification 21/2020 and Notification 22/2020 respectively)

Pursuant to Notification 21/2020, the Ministry of Commerce has classified the following as "Essential Supplies": (i) health supplies for the prevention, control and treatment of COVID-19, (ii) medicines, and (iii) food products. It prohibits the increase of sale prices and distribution prices and the hoarding of such supplies effective 30 March 2020.

Under Section 5 of the Essential Supplies and Services Law, any person who violates the above prohibition shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a minimum period of 6 months and a maximum of 3 years, as well as a fine not exceeding 500,000 Kyats.

The Department of Consumer Affairs is tasked, under Notification 22/2020, with the enforcement of the above prohibition.

Guidelines for precautionary measures at the workplace

Guideline for factories, workshops, workplaces and construction sites regarding prevention and control of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), issued by the Ministry of Health and Sports (Prevention Guideline)

Under the Prevention Guideline, the Ministry of Health and Sports provided comprehensive guidance to employers, employees and supervisors in factories, workshops, workplaces and constructions sites (collectively, Workplace), on what they should do to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Employers should, among others:

  • not allow an employee to come to the Workplace if the employee exhibits COVID-19 symptoms, or cohabitates with a person suspected of having COVID-19;

  • arrange alternative transport arrangement for employees (so as to avoid the employees from taking public transportation), and provide, on such vehicles, hand sanitisers, tissues and surgical masks as well as video/audio playback of instructions to raise health awareness amongst the employees;

  • provide temperature checks before employees enter the Workplace using a non-touch thermometer or thermal scanner, and not require the employee to work if his/her temperature is 38°C or above;

  • ensure that employees are kept distanced from one another and minimise crowds at the Workplace, including arranging for employees to be kept at least 3 feet from one another (including at work stations, meetings, dining halls, etc.), limit usage of lifts to 4 persons per lift at any given time, minimising unnecessary contact between employees, etc.; and

  • provide sufficient hand washing stations with soap, water or hand sanitisers, etc., display relevant materials and take proactive steps (e.g. to only allow employees to enter the Workplace after washing their hands, to supervise employees wash hands with soap or hand sanitiser before having a meal, etc.) to encourage and increase systematic handwashing.

Employees, in turn, are encouraged to, among others:

  • wash hands with soap and water frequently and avoid touching his/her own face before washing hands, observe personal hygiene, and maintain good eating and sleeping habits;

  • avoid crowded places and, to the extent possible, places outside of the Workplace or home;

  • not go to the Workplace and should seek help if they display COVID-19 symptoms;

  • look out for employees who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms and report to his/her supervisor of any such suspicions; and

  • refrain from using public transportation and utilise the alternative transport arrangement provided by the employer.

Lastly, the Prevention Guideline requires, for construction sites specifically, to limit the number of employees to no more than 50 employees at any one site and maintain a record of daily attendance of the employees at the sites.

Conclusion

If they have not already, businesses are encouraged to take immediate and necessary precautions in their workplace to deal with the COVID-19 developments to ensure the health of their employees as well as the continuity of their operations under fast changing circumstances. Businesses should develop business continuity plans, in consultation with suppliers and customers. Communication protocols, especially using technology platforms, should be trialed and planned.

Governmental legislative and enforcement activities can take place rapidly and businesses need to monitor them closely, and be ready to respond to them. We expect more government mandated measures in the coming days, and businesses need their management teams to be able to react quickly with appropriate decision makers ready to make adjustments to the operations as necessary.

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