Nearly 200 migrant workers were permitted to return to Burma from Thailand on Monday, even though the border between the two countries had previously been closed. They are being monitored in the eastern Shan State town of Tachileik for 14 days for symptoms of coronavirus.
Myint Naing, an officer from the Tachileik General Administration Department (GAD), confirmed that 188 migrant workers arrived on the morning of April 6. After negotiations, Thailand allowed the workers to cross to Burma, and Burmese authorities said that they would be quarantined.
“We received them. We will monitor them for 14 days. We will place them in the Moegok meditation center,” the GAD officer said.
Local authorities are obligated to provide the returnees with food and shelter until the end of their quarantine period.
A 24-year-old man tested positive for coronavirus in Kyaukme Township in northern Shan State on March 30. He had returned to Burma from Bangkok, Thailand on March 25, passing through Tachileik.
Burma’s Ministry of Health and Sports began enforcing an order that returning migrant workers be quarantined and monitored for symptoms of the virus for two weeks, but it remains unknown how consistently this has been enforced. The Thai-Burma border has been closed since March 25, and in the days that preceded this, thousands of people were forced by Thailand’s own shutdown to return to Burma.
The MoHS had confirmed just 21 cases of coronavirus in Burma between March 23 and April 5. One patient has died.
Medical experts and human rights activists have noted that the actual number of infections may be much higher than what is being officially reported, as much of Burma’s population has little to no access to healthcare or testing facilities.