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Myanmar eyes international border reopening in early 2022

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Myanmar will reopen land border crossings with China and Thailand next month ahead of a planned resumption of international air travel by 1Q2022.

The decision comes as vaccination rates have improved significantly amid clear signs of economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a statement by the Ministry of Information.

Sule Pagoda in Yangon Myanmar
Myanmar to reopen its land borders with China and Thailand next month; Sule Pagoda in Yangon pictured

Maung Maung Ohn, minister of information, said travel restrictions will be eased by January 2022 at Muse which borders Ruili city in China’s Yunnan Province and at the three Myanmar towns of Tachileik, Kawthaung and Htee Kee which border Thailand.

Travel at border crossings with Laos, India and Bangladesh are currently permitted due to lower incidences of infection.

According to the statement, the government continues to receive vaccines mainly from China through donations and national procurement programmes.

A total of 14.4 million citizens above the age of 18, or 42.5 per cent of the population, have received at least one dose of vaccine as of Friday. This will increase to 50 per cent of the population by end of 2021.

With the acceleration of the vaccination programme, coupled with a fall in Covid-19 cases, the State Administration Council is accelerating resumption of social and economic activity to restore national stability following the challenges of the pandemic and the internal social unrest.

To prepare to resume international air travel, six government ministries are coordinating efforts to standardise testing and safety procedures such as social distancing, contact tracing and quarantine as well as vaccination status certification, the minister said.

“Air travel is important to facilitate the return of Myanmar citizens, expatriates, aid and development workers, and international business travel. We must ensure that hotels, transportation, health facilities, airports and airline operators are ready to meet the standard operating procedures. We will keep various embassies informed of progress,” he said.

The minister also said the government is cautiously assessing infection rates abroad ahead of the European winter. “Once our vaccination programme reaches targets and if global infection rates drop, we intend to resume international air travel in the first quarter of 2022,” he said.

“This will benefit not just tourism but also commercial activity and bilateral social, cultural and development activities and exchanges. In recent months, we have received substantial foreign interest in investments and business opportunities. These parties are eager to travel to Myanmar to conclude transactions.”

Despite clear evidence of economic sabotage and the effects of the pandemic, economic activity has largely restarted across most parts of the country with the onset of the dry season last month, the minister said.

He added: “Myanmar is recovering from challenges of a health pandemic, an economic downturn and social and political disturbances. The vaccination programme and the economic recovery efforts are gaining momentum… Business confidence is returning especially in major cities where religious activities recently have all been well attended. The resumption of air travel will be an important catalyst for tourism, the return of foreign investments and international business activities.”

As of November 12, the country has recorded a total of 511,717 cases of infection and 18,899 deaths due to Covid-19.

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