Myanmar passed 40,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases this week. Key industries continue to suffer, and the government continues to scramble to soften the blow.
This week, the border crossing at Mae Sot, Thailand, the busiest land portal between the Kingdom and Myanmar, was sealed after five COVID-19 cases were detected there. The freeze has been set for only seven days, which would not have a major impact on land trade — provided it is not extended.
For trade in general, crop prices continue to rise due to shipping restrictions, especially in Yangon, which has imposed strict requirements on truck drivers entering and leaving the city. Ministry of Commerce data reported by The Myanmar Times shows exports have only reached around USD 130 million in the new fiscal year, down USD 320 million from the same point in the previous fiscal year.
In the manufacturing sector: More than 70 workers in a Mon State cold storage factory have tested positive for COVID-19. The outbreak came just after a Ministry of Health and Sports decision to allow factories in Yangon Region to resume operations provided they meet strict health and safety guidelines. A similar outbreak in one of Yangon’s manufacturing districts could spread quickly among the crowded factory floors and cramped worker housing complexes, and lead to yet another lockdown for the beleaguered sector.
On the government side, Myanmar is expanding its soft loan program for affected businesses, this time with help from Pact Global Microfinance Fund, which announced that it would provide soft loans to small businesses. Finally, speaking in a virtual conference, officials from the Ministry of Investment and Economic Relations said it was drafting a new, long-term recovery framework to replace the current COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan. We discuss that plan in more detail elsewhere in this week’s newsletter.