Maldives receives major Chinese medical equipments donation
Maldives on Saturday received a major donation of medical supplies made by the Chinese government and companies to help the island nation fight the coronavirus outbreak.
A chartered flight carrying the supplies landed at the Maldives main Velana International Airport Saturday afternoon.
According to a series of documents published by the Chinese ambassador in Maldives Zhang Lizhong, the donations include:
- 10 ventilators
- 209,080 disposable protective masks
- 31,500 N95 protective masks
- 10,000 test kits
- 500 goggles
- 350 medical protective suits
- 50 infrared thermometers
- 20 care beds
The Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation, the charity arms of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba and its billionaire founder Jack ma, were the major donors.
Other Chinese companies that made the donations include:
- China Merchants Port Group
- China Machinery Engineering Corporation
- Beijing Urban Construction Investment and Development Corporation
- Dongfang Electric International Corporation
- China Harbour Engineering Company
- Huawei Technologies
Maldivian foreign minister Abdulla Shahid thanked the Chinese government and companies for the donations.
“The government and the people of China have always extended solidarity and extraordinary support to the Maldives in overcoming unprecedented challenges. Today, we are extremely grateful that China is with us, as we ride through the storm. The ride is tough, but we are hopeful that we will be able to adjust our sails and reach the shores safe,” a statement issued by the foreign minister read.
This is the second shipment of medical and protective equipment donated by China to support the Maldives’ efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
Several private donors with business interests in the Maldives have also come forward with donations of medical and protective equipment.
Daniel Kretinsky and Jiri Smejc, the Czech billionaires who own the ultra-luxury Velaa Private Island resort in the Maldives, donated five ventilators, 10,000 test kits, 100,000 face masks, 200 respirators and 500 personal protective equipment (PPE) kit to the Maldives Saturday.
The donations by Velaa’s owners come a week after Singaporean billionaire property tycoon Ong Beng Seng, whose Hotel Properties Limited (HPL) owns several resorts in the Maldives, donated eight ventilators and 100,000 face masks to the Maldives.
Other companies in Singapore and Thailand have also made similar donations.
Faced with the coronavirus outbreak, the Maldives is looking to ramp up its healthcare capacity by developing 200 new ICU beds and increasing the number of available ventilators to 246 from 97.
The Maldives is also looking to borrow $233.37 million from international lenders to plug the gap in balance of payments stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
Funds already pledged by international lenders include $28.9 million from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), $20 million from the OPEC Fund for International Development, $17.3 million from the World Bank, and $3.28 million from the European Union.
In the meantime, the government will borrow MVR 4.2 billion ($272 million) under an overdraft facility at the central bank to cover state expenses and maintain public services amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
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 13 per cent economic contraction this year — an estimated $778 million hit.
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 April 15, confirmed community transmission of the coronavirus. Several more clusters have since been identified, bringing the total number of confirmed case in the Maldives to 519.
Only one death has been reported and 17 have made full recoveries. Five remain in intensive care.
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.