Myanmar's biggest city closes parks to keep lid on coronavirus

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Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Yangon

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar closed off public gardens, parks and a lake in its biggest city Yangon on Monday, hoping to prevent a spike in coronavirus cases during year-end holidays.

City officials trying to protect recent gains in containing COVID-19 infections put up barricades, signs and cordons around the Mahabandula park and along the banks of the Inya lake, among other popular sites known for drawing holiday crowds.

The closures come amid fears that fatigue and frustration from the coronavirus crisis and containment measures could see a larger turnout than usual this year.

"We have seen some people do some extreme celebrations at New Year. And we think the crowd would get bigger for celebrations this year," city administrator Myo Kyi said.

"We are so nervous of infections from the crowd because Myanmar is just about to control the infections."

After going months with relatively few known cases, Myanmar has recorded more than 116,000 infections and 2,443 deaths as of Monday, the majority stemming from outbreaks in August.

It has kept infections to an average 1,113 per day recently, however, down by about 350 a day from three weeks ago.

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi has warned the public not to be careless and has pledged to ensure access to vaccines next year.

Taxi driver Toe Gyi said it could be a challenge to stop gatherings, but curbing crowds could speed up a recovery.

"We need to be patient this year as we have many events ahead," he said. "If we can control it, I strongly believe we will be alright to overcome the pandemic."

(Reporting by Zaw Naing Oo; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Alexander Smith)