Myanmar festival postponed amid virus outbreak
Authorities in Myanmar have postponed the country's largest spirit festival as the country is struggling to contain the deadly outbreak of swine flu.
At least ten people have died due to a fresh outbreak of swine flu in Myanmar as of Sunday while 51 H1N1-positive patients are being treated in hospitals in the country's commercial capital, Yangon, according to the health department.
Local authorities said Sunday that the eight-day spirit festival, scheduled to take place from July 31 to Aug. 7 in a village called Taung Pyone outside the second biggest city, Mandalay, was postponed to prevent the spread of outbreak.
"As the festival draws thousands of visitors from across the country, we believe it is the best way to postpone it until the situations are brought under control," Mandalay Regional Chief Minister Zaw Myint Maung, told reporters on Sunday.
He said the decision was made after talks with the festival's committee during an emergency meeting in Mandalay on Sunday.
The festival honoring the 37 nature spirits worshipped in conjunction with Buddhist traditions has seen tens of thousands flock to the festival annually for about a century, some of them homosexual or transgender.
Though same-sex relations are criminalized under the colonial-era penal code in Myanmar, homosexuals and transgender people are welcomed during the festival.
In addition to the swine flu outbreak, Myanmar has recently confirmed a H5N1 virus outbreak, commonly known as bird flu, in Yangon and in the southernmost region of Tanintharyi.