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Hostel uncertainties

The COVID-19 restrictions are not only affecting businesses but also ordinary people, who have been forced to change their ways of life – and interacting with others.

Though many people have adopted more positive habits around health and hygiene, such as washing hands and eating a balanced diet, other social norms are harder to change.

Once such norm is social distancing, which people on the streets, in restaurants and at work find particularly hard difficult to observe. This is also true in places like dormitories and hostels, where gatherings of more than 5 people are common.

“Before the outbreak we had about 20 boarders. When some universities started to close, many students at the hostel travelled back to their native towns. Now we are back to around 10 boarders, so it’s a relief that things are starting to return to normal,” said Ma Myat Su Mon who lives in a hostel in Pazundaung township.

Her hostel is a 20 x 60 foot apartment, which can accommodate up to 20 twenty people. She is an accountant at a small firm and still has to go to the office every day. So, whenever she returns from the office, she said she usually locks herself up in her room.

“There are only four of us who need to go out every day for work. The rest don’t need to go outside, so they just stay inside. It won’t be very easy to move to another hostel right now, so when I get back, I do my chores quickly and go to bed,” she said.

The hostel owners have set rules for those who need to go outside to work. Boarders are required to wear masks whenever the leave the hostel, and wash clothes and take a bath as soon as they get back, according to Ma Yin Yin Nu, who stays at a hostel in Botahtaung township.

“I can’t quit my job and move to another hostel, and it’s sad to see people become so suspicious of me. Everyone used to be so friendly before,” she said.

COVID-19 has not stopped businesses, but the restrictions have changed how people interact with each other. People trust each other less, and those who go outside of the hostels are seen to be taking a risk with their health – putting other people at risk.

There are hundreds of hostels in Yangon, and residents are typically intraregional migrants traveling to Yangon for work. Hostels offer a cheaper alternative to rental accommodation and hotels, which are either too expensive or require a large down-payment as a deposit.

Both hostel tenants and owners are suffering during the COVID-19 crisis. As some hostels are for students only, they had to be shut down while schools were no longer open, said Ma Ni Ni Myint, who opened a hostel while renting an apartment in Kamaryut township.

“As no one knows when universities will reopen, I will go back to my town after this month and return the apartment to the owner. Even when the universities reopen, I wouldn’t dare to open a hostel like before. I am worried that one of my tenants will spread the virus,” she said.

She arrived in Yangon from Danuphyu township, Ayeyarwady Region, and learned Japanese. Six years later, she is now a teacher. Like her, four or five people closed their hostels due to the COVID-19 restrictions, she said.

Most of the workers in Yangon have to depend on hostels and the current number of hostels in the city cannot provide adequate accommodation for increasing numbers of migrant workers.

If the number of available hostels drops after the COVID-19 crisis, migrant workers returning to Yangon will find it difficult to find accommodation. – Translated

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Source : Myanmar Times

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