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article imageSilent streets for water festival in Myanmar lockdown

By AFP     Apr 12, 2020 in Travel

Myanmar’s New Year festival of Thingyan is the country’s biggest public holiday -- normally a week of nation-wide celebration and water-fights, with soaked revellers partying late into the night.

But this year, in an echo of cancelled Easter celebrations elsewhere in the world, the country’s commercial hub Yangon is locked down, with residents confined indoors because of the coronavirus.

Food delivery bicycles and rickshaws have commandeered the city’s usually traffic-choked streets after the government ordered people to stay home unless for essential food and healthcare needs.

Punks gathered in a Yangon park to celebrate the New Year water festival in 2019  but this year it w...
Punks gathered in a Yangon park to celebrate the New Year water festival in 2019, but this year it was deserted
Ye Aung THU, AFP

By Sunday Myanmar officially had just 38 confirmed cases -- including three deaths -- but many fear the low number of tests mean the real figures are likely many times higher.

Images from last year’s holiday show a different city, hoses drenching cheering crowds dancing to deafening techno beats pumped out from mammoth loudspeakers.

This year the silence is broken only by the cawing of crows and cooing of pigeons, and the motor of an occasional taxi searching for custom.

"Thingyan’s in the heart of every Myanmar person," a sad Soe Moe Aung, 36, told AFP.

Yangon's streets are usually packed with revellers during the water festival  but this year eve...
Yangon's streets are usually packed with revellers during the water festival, but this year everyone has been ordered to stay indoors because of the lockdown
Ye Aung Thu, AFP

Both the public holiday and lockdown is due to end next Sunday, but efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus could be extended.

Yangon-based public health expert Dr Frank Smithuis warns any sustained lockdown would be "devastating" for Myanmar — and other under-developed countries in the region — where many live hand-to-mouth.

More about Myanmar, Health, Virus, Festival
 
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