Myanmar extends travel ban to quell coronavirus surge ahead of election

Supporters of the National League for Democracy ride a motorcade during a campaign in Wundwin, Myanmar, on Sept 17, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

NAYPITAW (BLOOMBERG) - Myanmar extended a ban on foreign visitors and domestic travel by a month to contain a record surge in coronavirus infections just weeks before the nation holds a general election.

The temporary suspension of international flights and foreign travellers will last through Oct 31, Myanmar's Central Committee on Covid-19 Control led by Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi said on Thursday (Sept 24).

The ban, first imposed from March end, was due to end on next Wednesday.

The country reported 1,052 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, the highest daily increase since it first detected the virus in March.

The majority of new cases are from the Yangon region, the nation's commercial hub and home to its biggest city of the same name, which is currently under a lockdown.

The resurgence in infections has hampered campaigning for the Nov 8 elections, with about two dozen opposition political parties calling for the vote to be delayed.

But the ruling National League for Democracy still favours going to vote on schedule, with Ms Suu Kyi saying the outbreak can be contained with strict social distancing curbs.

While Myanmar managed to keep its infections low in the early phase of the outbreak, cases began to spike from late August.

The nation of 54 million people has now reported more than 8,515 cases and 155 fatalities.

With the containment measures taking a toll on businesses, the Central Bank of Myanmar said on Thursday it would extend minimum reserve requirement relaxations for banks to March to lessen the impact of Covid-19 on lenders.

The country has set aside three trillion kyat (S$3 billion) for efforts to contain the outbreak and minimise its impacts.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.