Things have escalated quite a bit since the last time I did a post. Last weekend we had no internet at the house, so you missed an in-between post, but Myanmar officially reported its first two cases about a week ago and since then the number has risen to 20.The first two positive cases were Myanmar nationals returning from the US and the UK and for a while all of the new positive cases were from people returning from abroad as well. Yesterday when out walking the dog, we had a guy yell at us that we should be wearing a mask. I was a bit confused, as plenty of locals were also walking around with no mask, but then I realised that he was seeing me as the European disease vector! Oh well, I just walked on and pretended I didn’t know what he was saying.
All restaurants and bars are shut down as of last weekend, although most are still open for delivery. Yangon Door 2 Door, the local food delivery company, has been slammed and it can be very difficult to get them to actually accept your order at any normal meal time. Last night I got on at 5:30 to order a pizza and I got the last delivery spot available at 8:30 pm! I felt lucky to get that as the Indian takeaway I really wanted was no longer taking any orders for the night. Some restaurants have actually adapted in quite clever ways. One of the most popular downtown restaurant, Rangoon Tea House, has developed a whole new line of freezer products as well as delivering its menu normally. And another restaurant will send you cocktails by taxi! Strange and amazing times we live in.
Last Saturday Gavin woke up with a swollen foot from what we assumed was a bug bite. He knew he was itching it in bed so we didn’t really worry too much, just slapped some antibiotic cream on it. We then went to a garden centre to get some plants and sod for our “yard” (remember just a 10 foot long patch of dirt that long ago had some grass on it but Nell ripped it up). We came home, he slaved in the sun planting things, and then started complaining about ants. He disturbed an ant’s nest and got bit a few times on his hands and arms. By the evening his left hand had swollen up pretty bad (to match his foot) and his right arm had a protrusion that looked kind of like he had a broken bone. I am a very sympathetic person so I told him to just sleep it off and he would be FINE. Sunday morning arrived and shocker! My medical advice did not work! He was still puffy and now things were….oozing. So he made an appointment at the local ex-pat medical clinic for later in the morning.
We rode over to the clinic on our scooters and when we got there I said “you know, I don’t know if I really want to go sit in the waiting room unnecessarily in the time of Corona. I’m just going to wait out here in the parking lot.” Gav went in after being basically deloused at the entrance by a lady in a space suit. I sat out in the parking lot whinging about how sweaty I was and Gav went inside and was told that he had ant bites and should put antibiotic cream on it. He was also relieved of $250 for that advice, which let’s remember I already gave him at home. We had a little grumble about that being sort of pointless and went about our day.
The week wore on and every day one or two more cases of COVID were found in Myanmar. Wednesday morning we woke up to the news that a medical professional had now tested positive for the virus. About 10 minutes after reading that in the news Gav got a call from the head of school (not unusual, he will often call to check wording for an email or to ask Gav’s opinion about something). In the call he mentioned that the medical professional was from the ABC* clinic and that clinic had now been closed down by the government. Guess which clinic Gav had been to on Sunday? (*name changed to protect the disease vector clinic)
This revelation by Gavin set off wave of alarm. All of a sudden it was clear in the past two days how many people Gavin had had meetings with, how many people’s computers I had touched and possibly the folly of the fact that people were still coming to work to maintain a sense of normality. We were told that people should come to school to collect what they needed but from now on people were to work remotely. Meanwhile Gavin and I were quietly freaking out about the fact that he may have come in contact with the infected person. Immediately we decided to self-quarantine for 14 days and I spent a good part of the day panic buying wine from a place that would deliver.
At about 5:30 pm we got a call that the nurse who was positive had not been in the clinic for several days before Gav visited. There was no concern from the clinic or from our school medical professionals about Gav being exposed, so no need to self quarantine! It was a big relief but also a big wake up call to us about not going anywhere we don’t really have to go.
It looks like we may be on the verge of a stay at home order from the government anyway. Next week starts the major Myanmar New Year festival, Thingyan. All festivities have already been cancelled and there is news in the paper today that people are being asked not to travel. Anyone who is travelling any kind of distance is being asked to self-quarantine and anyone who manages to get back to Myanmar from aboard is being forcibly “facility” quarantined.
….As a friend of ours found out. Three weeks ago she flew out of Yangon to go to a medical appointment in Bangkok. Her flight back to Yangon was cancelled and she was offered a new one. On April 26th. After a week in a Bangkok AirBnB she was able to get on the very last flight from Bangkok to Yangon before Yangon shut down the airport. Once in Yangon she was told to get on a bus with everyone on the flight to go to into quarantine at the national football stadium. Now, she had done her research and knew that there were supposed to be options for facility quarantine. The free option was the stadium, but she supposedly could pay to go to a hotel for 14 days instead. So she refused to get on the bus and sat in the arrivals lounge until some official finally gave in and called for a transfer for her to go to the quarantine hotel. The transfer was an ambulance, so she made quite the scene leaving the airport.
Anyway, she has been at the hotel now for nearly a week. She is in reasonably good spirits as her family have been sending care packages with food and booze in it daily. Good thing, because although the hotel is providing food for people, the other night I got a photo of “dinner” and it was chicken feet. To be fair, Myanmar people LOVE chicken feet so that was probably comfort food for everyone else. Yesterday her husband and our mutual friend Liz and I went up to her hotel to surprise her with drinks after work. Of course she had to stay in her room and we had to stand in the parking lot below her window, but it was fun none the less.
At first she opened the window and we tried having a conversation but the security guard was not pleased and told her to shut it. In case the Corona escaped I guess. See above for Liz and me in the Parking Lot Pub. She still has another 9 days in there so maybe we can visit that pub again before she is sprung.
So, here we are. Stuck in Yangon but not sure any other place is any better. We are trying to be prepared but not hoard-y. We were in line behind someone at the grocery store last week with 4 enormous carts jammed full of random stuff. 25 toothbrushes? 100 tomatoes? What is going on? I was absolutely giving the lady my best death stare and doing a lot of huffing. Turns out it wasn’t her stuff and that lady only had one basket. Whoopsie. I had to quickly re-death glare the correct people.
With restaurants closing we got worried about our supply of bread, not sure our bakery of choice would sill be open for take-away. So last night Gav dusted off our bread maker. That thing hadn’t been touched since London, when we would make a loaf every week. And voila! Success.
So, we have bread, we have wine (special shout out to the guy who biked my 16 bottles of wine over from the store!), and we now have separate work spaces thanks to one day of trying to work at the same table. We are ready for this!