Schools and cinemas have shut their doors here in Mandalay. Even the Burmese New Year has been canceled. There is just no Coronavirus.
While we wait for the impending viral cyclone, here is an update on the Coronavirus situation in Myanmar.
And it is “so far so good” here in former Burma. Surprisingly so, because one would have expected that her proximity to China and record-high tourist numbers from her communist cousin would have devastated Myanmar with Corona weeks ago.
No Coronavirus in Myanmar is too good to be true
One normally does not associate Burmese governance and decision-making with proactive measures and responsible decisions for the greater good of Her people.
However, in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw, politicians have been busy preventing that the country does not wind up in a situation similar to that of Italy of Iran.
After a few cases of the hoarding of supermarkets, most Burmese are now relatively calm and most people have had a chance to stock up on eggs, noodles and other essentials.
No Burmese have been forced by the government to work from home, yet many have to as all kindergartens and schools have been closed until May.
But how can it be that Myanmar has so far come through unscathed? There are many theories – and some of them are rather interesting.
Dirty cash gives Myanmar a lifeline
At a press conference on March 11 in Naypyidaw, one of Aung San Suu Kyi’s top-flight advisors, U Zay Htay, surprised a lot of people when he listed his perceived reasons for the hitherto unaffected state of Myanmar in these pandemic days.
It is simply because there are very credit cards in Myanmar, according to him:
Human to human transmission is the leading contribution to the spread of the virus in Western countries. Myanmar does not share the customs of greeting with handshakes, hugs or kisses that these countries have. It also does not have a high number of credit card users compared to other nations, as the person handling credit cards at the counter would be in close contact with hundred of different people in a day. This is avoided by Myanmar’s predominant use of paper currency.
If you have ever been to Myanmar, you will know that the cash we use here could not possibly be any more threadbare and dirty. Washing your hands always sounds like a good idea when you have been handed a note that looks like it has been just salvaged from a toilet.
If anything, U Zay Htay should have explained that it is the daily contact with Myanmar’s incredibly dirty cash that has boosted the immune systems of the Burmese through decades and thus kept the Coronavirus at bay.
In the meantime, locals and expats can enjoy gasoline at 45 cents per liter, and fruit juice is still considerably more expensive than gin.