Maldives capital records new daily high of 17 coronavirus cases, first hospitalisation
Health officials in Maldives on Tuesday reported 17 new coronavirus cases, including the first patient requiring hospitalisation — all in the island nation’s capital city and a record daily high for one of the world’s most densely populated cities.
Health Protection Agency (HPA) said 10 Maldivians and seven foreign workers tested positive in capital Male Monday for Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus which originated in China in December.
The locals that tested positive Monday include three from the same family, a soldier, and direct contacts of previous cases.
An 80-year-old Maldivian with underlying health conditions is in critical condition after being tested positive Monday. It was the first patient in the country that required hospitalisation.
All foreigners that tested positive Monday are Bangladeshi workers and include three undocumented workers.
Tuesday’s case numbers are on par with Sunday’s record high of 17, the highest daily spike in coronavirus infections in the Maldives to date.
However, Sunday’s cases include one that was detected from an inhabited island in the archipelago’s north.
This makes Tuesday’s numbers the highest daily spike in coronavirus infections in capital Male. Sixty-four cases have been found from the 6.8 square kilometre island-city.
On March 8, Maldives reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus, as two hotel employees tested positive for Covid-19 at a luxury resort in the archipelago.
Eighteen more cases — all foreigners working or staying resorts and liveaboard vessels except five Maldivians who had returned from abroad — were later identified.
A six-case cluster of locals, detected in capital Male on Wednesday, confirmed community transmission of the coronavirus. Several more clusters have since been identified, bringing the total number of confirmed case in the Maldives to 84.
No deaths have been reported and 16 have made full recoveries.
The Maldives announced a state of public health emergency on March 12, the first such declaration under a recent public health protection law.
The public health emergency declaration has allowed the government to introduce a series of unprecedented restrictive and social distancing measures, including stay-at-home orders in capital Male and its suburbs, a ban on inter-island transport and public gatherings across the country, and a nationwide closing of government offices, schools, colleges and universities.
Non-essential services and public places in the capital such as gyms, cinemas and parks have also been shut.
Restaurants and cafes in the capital have been asked to stop dine-in service and switch to takeaway and delivery.
A nationwide shutdown of all guesthouses, city hotels and spa facilities located on inhabited islands is also in effect.
The coronavirus outbreak has hit the Maldivian economy hard, as travel restrictions and other preventive measures affect the country’s lucrative tourism industry, which contributes the bulk of the island nation’s state revenue and foreign reserves.
Before the pandemic, the government had been bullish about tourism prospects, targeting two million, high-spending holidaymakers this year after last year’s record 1.7 million.
However, tourist arrivals saw a year-over-year decline of 22.8 per cent in the first 10 days of March. Officials say the number of tourist arrivals to the Maldives could drop by half in 2020.
All international airlines have suspended scheduled operations to the Maldives, as the island nation enforced a blanket suspension of on-arrival visa in late March in a bid to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Even before the visa suspension, the Maldives had closed its borders to arrivals from some of the worst-hit countries, including mainland China, Italy, Bangladesh, Iran, Spain, the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. Visitors from three regions of Germany (Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg), two regions of France (Île-de-France and Grand Est) and two regions of South Korea were also banned from entering the country.
All direct flights to and from China, Italy, South Korea and Iran were also cancelled.
Cruise ships and foreign yachts were also banned from docking at any of the country’s ports.
With arrival numbers falling and the visa suspension in effect, several resorts across the Maldives had been closed.
Tourism has been the bedrock of the Maldives’ economic success. The $5 billion-dollar economy grew by 6.7 per cent in 2018 with tourism generating 60 per cent of foreign income.
However, the government is at present projecting a possible 5.7 per cent economic contraction this year — an estimated $778 million hit.
Photo: Sun Online