MANDALAY – The Mandalay Tour Guide Society (MTGS) on Monday opposed any move to allow entry of mainland Chinese tourists with health certificates as the death toll in China from the new coronavirus, also known as novel coronavirus, reached 1,770.
The idea of obtaining a health guarantee letter for Chinese tourists as a condition of entry emerged after a meeting between foreign ministry officials and representatives of tourism associations and hotels at the ministry earlier this month.
A letter distributed by the Union of Myanmar Tourist Associations (UMTA) on Feb. 13 contained instructions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to hotels and travel agencies, purportedly aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The UMTA letter mentioned that the ministry asked tourism associations and hoteliers to distribute health information and prepare isolation rooms and other medical facilities in hotels, and instructed travel agencies to obtain health guarantees for Chinese tourists before arranging tours.
“Cancellation of trips booked by Chinese tourists will incur costs, so travel agencies must seek assurances of the health of Chinese tourists,” the letter said.
In a statement released on Monday, the Mandalay Tour Guide Society (MTGS) expressed concern over the spread of the coronavirus and said it disagreed with the idea of allowing Chinese tourists to enter the country with health certificates.
MTGS said the purpose of instructing travel agencies to request health certificates or health assurance documents was not to try to limit the spread of the virus, but to find a way to allow previously booked Chinese tour groups to enter the country, thereby avoiding the need to pay compensation or cancellation fees.
“The authorities may be considering the impact of imposing a travel ban on Chinese tourists on the country’s tourism (sector). But we cannot accept this plan that endangers the health of the entire country and only cares about money. We strongly oppose this plan,” said MTGS vice-chairman Ko Zin Min Khaing told The Irrawaddy.
“The directive says that travel agencies need to obtain health assurance letters from tourists. But what guarantee can we get from a piece of paper that they (tourists) are really not infected with the virus?” he added.
MTGS said authorities should not allow Chinese tourists to visit Myanmar until the COVID-19 outbreak is over.
“We also urge the authorities to reconsider this and guides not to provide tour services for Chinese tourists until it is safe and until the World Health Organization declares that the virus is under control and travel is safe,” he said.
The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism told The Irrawaddy that it was reviewing the situation and taking steps to ensure the health of citizens and tourism would not be affected.
“The ministry is reviewing the case. As it is a matter of national health, there will be implications, but the ministry is reviewing the matter to make sure there is no health or tourism impact,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism said. said an official.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, Myanmar received more than 300,000 Chinese tourists in 2018 and more than 750,000 in 2019.
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism instructed travel agencies to suspend travel services to Chinese tourists and to suspend issuing visas on arrival for Chinese tourists.
In addition to China Eastern Airlines, which operates direct flights from virus-hit Wuhan to Yangon and Mandalay, there are other operators such as China Southern Airlines, Kunming Airlines, Air China, Myanmar Airways International and Myanmar National Airlines. Flights between Myanmar and China. , is also prohibited.
China’s coronavirus death toll stood at 1,770 as of Feb. 17, with more than 70,500 infections, according to China’s National Health Commission. The new crown pneumonia epidemic has caused 5 deaths outside China, and the epidemic has spread to Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Australia, France, Germany and other 25 countries. United States and Canada.
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