Maldives confirms first coronavirus cases

Two hotel employees tested positive for the novel coronavirus at a luxury resort in the Maldives, the government said Saturday marking the first cases reported in the upmarket holiday destination.

Health minister Abdulla Ameen told reporters in capital Male that two unnamed foreign nationals working at the Kuredu Island Resort tested positive for COVID-19.

The two were checked after an Italian tourist who had holidayed at their resort tested positive upon his return home, the minister said.

The resort was on lockdown Saturday as local authorities moved to check other staff and guests.

“Samples from the two individuals were taken and tested and they continue to be monitored under isolation and are receiving the necessary medical treatment. The resort in under strict monitoring by national health authorities,” a separate statement issued by the national Health Protection Agency (HPA) read.

Two other resorts — Summer Island Maldives and Sandies Bathala Resort — along with an inhabited island were also locked down on Saturday, following suspected cases.

Maldives had taken several preventive measures against the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

The Maldives had earlier closed its borders to arrivals from the worst-hit countries, including mainland China, South Korea, Italy and Iran.

Cruise ships had also been banned from docking at any of the country’s ports.

All direct flights to and from China, Italy, South Korea and Iran had also been cancelled.

The island nation had installed thermal screening cameras at its international airports.

Quarantine facilities, including designated islets from the 1,192 islands that make up the archipelago, had also been established.

“Maldivians and visitors to the Maldives are again reminded to maintain a high level of personal hygiene to prevent and contain the potential spread of infection. Any person experiencing symptoms of the virus should immediately call the designated hotline (1676) before visiting a public health facility,” the HPA statement read.

The global coronavirus outbreak is expected to hit the Maldivian economy hard, as tourism contributes the bulk of the island nation’s state revenue and foreign reserves.

The government has already announced several cost cutting measures, including a freeze on the hiring of new staff and suspension of non-essential travel by state officials.

Cover photo: From a preparation drill held in capital Male last week. PHOTO/ MIHAARU ONLINE

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