41,510 Myanmar returnees returned to Myanmar, mainly from Thailand, from 22 March to 7 April 2020
Over 70 per cent of returnees returned to Bago, Mon, Shan and Kayin
74,770 total people in quarantine as of 6 April 2020
From 22 March to 7 April 2020, as based on available data, a total of 41,510 migrants had returned to Myanmar, mainly from Thailand and through the Mae Sot to Myawaddy border crossing, with the highest numbers of returnees returning to Bago Region, and Mon, Shan and Kayin states (over 70% of the total).
As of 3 April, the number of official returns had decreased almost to zero due to the closure of the border, with only a small number of returns permitted through the Three Pagodas Pass checkpoint. But the real number of returns is almost certainly considerably higher, if returns from other countries and returns through unofficial border crossings are included. Migrants are required to quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival, with most migrants primarily requested to quarantine in community-based quarantine facilities (e.g. primarily schools, monasteries); however, due to insufficient capacity, the majority have been home-quarantining. A total of 7 quarantine facilities have been set-up in Myawaddy to quarantine migrants arriving from mainly Thailand.
There are a range of immediate health-related and humanitarian needs and challenges faced by returnees, particularly during the initial two-week period of quarantine. Following the initial period of quarantine and as the crisis continues, the socioeconomic impacts on migrants and their families are also expected to become increasingly severe due to loss of livelihoods and income, including remittances.
It is expected that the borders will open again following 15 April, and increased numbers of migrants may return in subsequent weeks. There are over 3 million Myanmar migrants still in Thailand, with the potential for large-scale return in the coming months. In addition, there are an estimated 10 million internal migrants in Myanmar, including an estimated 1 million in Yangon alone, who are also highly vulnerable to the direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19 due to difficult and unsanitary living and working conditions and economic precarity, with tens of thousands reportedly already having lost their jobs.
There are also concerns that the mass returns of migrants could lead to transmissions among returnees at crowded border crossings, or to the seeding of new clusters in areas of return, as the majority of home communities are in rural areas unprepared for monitoring, testing and treating of COVID-19 cases that may arise.