In photos: Yangon’s new normal

Words & photos by HKUN LAT | FRONTIER

After two months of semi-lockdown, the commercial capital is bouncing back to the new normal of life with the coronavirus.

A bus stop on Mahabandoola Road in downtown Yangon, with Mahabandoola Park in the background, on June 10 and April 12. (Hkun Lat | Frontier)

A bus stop on Mahabandoola Road in downtown Yangon, with Mahabandoola Park in the background, on June 10 and April 12. (Hkun Lat | Frontier)

Vendors are returning to streets bustling with pedestrians and busy with traffic. Offices, shopping malls, teashops, and restaurants have re-opened, but with social distancing measures and other precautions against the spread of the virus. Bars and beer stations are back in business, although cinemas, nightclubs and karaoke lounges remain closed.

Insein Road and the Pyay Road flyover at Hledan Junction in Kamaryut Township on June 12 and April 13. (Hkun Lat | Frontier)

Insein Road and the Pyay Road flyover at Hledan Junction in Kamaryut Township on June 12 and April 13. (Hkun Lat | Frontier)

The mood in Yangon has been transformed as the fear of COVID-19 recedes. Not that long ago, when the first confirmed cases were emerging, the streets were eerily empty and the mood in the city was sombre.

University Avenue in Kamaryut Township on June 12 and April 13 (Hkun Lat | Frontier)

University Avenue in Kamaryut Township on June 12 and April 13 (Hkun Lat | Frontier)

As the situation has eased, with no sharp, sustained increase in new confirmed cases, the government has relaxed the restrictions of previous weeks. On May 15, the curfew was trimmed to 12am to 4am, bars and restaurants were permitted to re-open on June 1, and lockdowns imposed on 10 Yangon townships have mostly been lifted, with only Insein Township still subject to stay-at-home orders. But even in Insein, enforcement of lockdown measures is minimal and most businesses appear to have reopened.

An empty sidewalk of Yangon City Hall in Sule Pagoda road, downtown Yangon on June 12 and April 12. (Hkun Lat I Frontier)(Hkun Lat | Frontier)

An empty sidewalk of Yangon City Hall in Sule Pagoda road, downtown Yangon on June 12 and April 12. (Hkun Lat I Frontier)(Hkun Lat | Frontier)

Despite weeks of public health messages emphasising the importance of maintaining social distancing, many people seem not to have been listening. Perhaps they are more concerned about their livelihoods than the risk of contracting an infectious disease.

Bogyoke Aung San Road seen from the sidewalk near Waziya Cinema in downtown Yangon on June 1 and April 11. (Hkun Lat | Frontier)

Bogyoke Aung San Road seen from the sidewalk near Waziya Cinema in downtown Yangon on June 1 and April 11. (Hkun Lat | Frontier)

Myanmar has had 262 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of these patients, 167 have recovered and six have died. New cases are mostly being detected among returnees from abroad, but there have been a handful of cases in recent weeks of local transmission where the source is not known.

A narrow residential street in downtown Yangon's Pabedan Township on June 10 and April 21, when it was under lockdown. (Hkun Lat | Frontier)

A narrow residential street in downtown Yangon’s Pabedan Township on June 10 and April 21, when it was under lockdown. (Hkun Lat | Frontier)

A downtown stroll is still not quite what it was just a few months ago; everywhere are reminders of one of the world’s greatest public health crises. Almost everyone is wearing a mask (on pain of a K5,000 fine) and everyone who enters shopping malls, offices, railway stations and hotels is having their temperature checked.

Welcome to the new normal.

The junction of Sule Pagoda and Anawrahta roads in downtown Yangon on June 13 and April 11. (Hkun Lat | Frontier)

The junction of Sule Pagoda and Anawrahta roads in downtown Yangon on June 13 and April 11. (Hkun Lat | Frontier)

TOP PHOTO: Yangon City Development Committee staff wearing facemasks leave City Hall to head home on May 4. (Hkun Lat | Frontier)

By Hkun Lat

By Hkun Lat

Hkun Lat is a documentary photographer based in Yangon. He works on his own projects and on assignment for international media and organisations.
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