Yangon poor lose livelihoods due to COVID-19 restrictions

The stay-at-home order because of COVID-19 is causing hardships for the most vulnerable in Yangon.

Only one person is allowed to go out at a time and some streets don’t allow strangers to enter, causing hardships for street pedlars and gig economy workers. Most shops in Yangon only offer take-away food, and because of travel restrictions, pedlars, taxi drivers and part-time workers are earning less.

Taxi driver U Rakhine in North Okkalapa township said, “When I heard the stay-at-home order was extended, I didn’t know what to do. I can’t drive my taxi because of travel restrictions. I am worried about getting arrested. My income has almost disappeared.”

It is difficult to make even K5000 a day for their families, said trishaw riders and couriers.

“It’s not that I am unafraid of COVID-19 but because of the debts I must repay this month. I can’t afford to stay at home,” said trishaw driver U Si Thu in North Dagon township.

Although most streets in Yangon don’t allow pedlars, some still do, said one coconut juice pedlar. Although his ward has approved of pedlars, he can’t go to other wards, he said.

Daw Phyu Phyu Thin, Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House) MP for Mingalar Taung Nyunt township, said, “I hear the hardships of people. We can only solve this problem by sharing the burden, such as delaying or reducing rent payments. The government has given two months’ salary to civil servants as a loan, but part-timers aren’t eligible.”

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Zeyar Hein