COVID-19: The situation as of 2nd April 2020

All our teams, whether they are in the UK, France or overseas in our sponsorship programmes, are adapting to the situation at hand. Many teams now work from home and those in the field continue to support the most vulnerable families and children as best as they can. Let’s keep on hoping the situation improves soon!

Each week, we will give you an update on the situation in our countries of action.

Overall, the number of cases of COVID-19 in the region of Southeast Asia where we operate is quite low. In order to avoid a tremendous growth of the pandemic as was seen in Europe, the countries of action of Children of the Mekong have all taken strong decisions: closing their borders, cancelling international flights…

The impact on education is, as of now, quite low as most of the Southeast Asian countries slow down at this time of the year, because of water festivals or school holidays.

Thanks to our network of local managers, the action of Children of the Mekong is maintained and now more than ever, necessary as it is the most unfortunate ones who are at increased risk of suffering from this pandemic. Aside from special cases, and you will be informed if your sponsored child is concerned, the sponsorships and your support will be dispatched to the families and will allow, in this time of unrest, to fulfil the physiological needs of the families: distribution of bags of rice and hygiene kits.

News from each country of action of Children of the Mekong:

VIETNAM: THE SITUATION AS OF THE 2nd OF APRIL 2020

There are still very few cases of Covid-19 in Vietnam: 227 as of now.

Vietnamese people are not on lockdown, but the country has closed its borders. Schools and universities are closed.

The country reacted very quickly against the virus, closing its borders with China at the end of January. During Chinese and Vietnamese new year, it had already been two weeks with no population travelling in between the two countries.

Prime minister Phuc has instructed local authorities to visit to every street, every alleyway, every house to look for people who entered Vietnam after the 8th of March and identify those who needed to be isolated or diagnosed because they had been in close contact with the newcomers.

He reiterated that those who didn’t comply with the quarantine and medical identification would be risking fines or even become liable to criminal prosecutions and announced that the next 15 days would be decisive in the fight against the epidemic.

The people most likely to have caught the virus are monitored by neighbourhood or street by street: the residents are tested as soon as there is a confirmed case in their street.

Most Vietnamese people wear a mask as soon as they go out.

Bars and hotels for expatriates are closed.

Although slowed, life goes on: markets remain open, as well as small street vendors and some companies.

PHILIPPINES: THE SITUATION AS OF THE 2nd OF APRIL 2020

On the 2nd of April, tensions heightened in the Philippines and President Duerte threatened those who don’t comply with the lockdown: “My orders to the police and military […] if there is trouble and there’s an occasion that they fight back and your lives are in danger, shoot them dead. Is that understood? Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I will bury you.”

President Duterte requested and obtained from the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives a state of national emergency which grants him more power to face the pandemic. Among other things, it provides for an emergency grant worth between 5,000 and 8,000 pesos for one to two months to 18 million low-income households, and for the payment of 100,000 pesos to public and private health workers who may contract a serious infection from COVID-19 in the course of their duties.

Health workers who may die fighting the pandemic will receive compensation of 1 million pesos.

Schools are closed and quarantine is being instated everywhere: schools/universities, malls, restaurants closed…

However, these measures differ from one island to another: for example, in Cebu and Negros, students and those over 65 are no longer allowed to go out, while in Luzon personal permits can be issued.

Inter-island connections (air, sea, land) are no longer available.

CAMBODIA: THE SITUATION AS OF THE 2nd OF APRIL 2020

A new bill concerning the state of national emergency has been approved on the 1st of April by the Ministerial Council. The bill was heavily criticised by human rights protection NGOs: severe limitation of liberties, freedom of expression…

On the 16th of March, the Ministry of Education ordered all public and private schools to be closed and for the children and students to be sent home on short holidays until the end of the Khmer New Year on the 19th of April.

No confinement was proposed or set up, but the government has asked the various ministries to have their officials to work from home.

Confinement of villages are to be put in place if more than two cases of the virus are reported.

The big cities with the most cases are Siemreap, Phnom Penh, Kompong Cham and Sihanoukville. In almost all other provinces, the cases seem to be isolated, 84 cases have been identified to date, no deaths.

THAILAND: THE SITUATION AS OF THE 2nd OF APRIL 2020

The state of national emergency was declared up until the 30th of April.

National curfew is being put in place from Friday the 3rd of April.

Thailand’s borders are de facto closed as potential travellers are expected to present a negative COVID-19 test of less than 72 hours to enter the country.

All entertainment activities are closed (boxing matches, cinema, shows, …).

The Bangkok area is semi-confined, with only food shops and pharmacies open. There is no injunction to stay at home, even if it is advised by the authorities.

All schools and universities (public and private) are closed. They closed 3 days before the official holidays, on Wednesday of last week. The impact on the education of children is therefore low.

LAOS: THE SITUATION AS OF THE 2nd OF APRIL 2020

10 official cases as of April the 2nd.

Laos took preventive action and closed its borders and schools during the week of March 16th, although no cases had yet been officially detected (only 120 patients had been tested).

There are currently no travel restrictions for Laotians within the country. Activity continues, slowed only by the closure of the borders.

Many migrant workers have returned from Thailand, without much border control. Chances are, they brought the virus with them.

MYANMAR: THE SITUATION AS OF THE 2nd OF APRIL 2020

The Ministry of Public Health and Sport confirmed two cases of infection on Facebook (one in the Chin Hills, the other in Yangon.) The two Burmese nationals, aged 26 and 36, both of whom had just returned from the United Kingdom. (Belga).

The borders between states have been closed this weekend, schools and training centres have been closed as well as cinemas and public places.

One witnesses a great difference in appreciation of the situation between Yangon and the rest of the country, where few people wear masks, and most do not respect the rules of social distancing.

Economic consequences for the country: a decline in Chinese tourism (which had doubled between 2018 and 2019) – closure of factories, particularly textile factories, and a sharp drop in exports.

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