Cocoon donates protective gear to help Maldives fight coronavirus

Cocoon Investments, together with its business partners, has donated protective gear to help the Maldives fight the coronavirus outbreak.

The donation by Cocoon Investments along with its majority shareholder, Sri Lanka-based Akbar Brothers, and Maldivian business partner Bison Maldives includes Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits, face masks and sanitiser.

Cocoon Investments chairman Asgi Akbarally, who also serves on the board of Akbar Brothers, handed over the donation to Omar Abdul Razzaq, the Maldivian ambassador in Sri Lanka on Monday.

Cocoon Investments runs two resorts in the Maldives: the 150-villa Cocoon Maldives, located in the northern Lhaviyani atoll; and the adults-only, 109-villa You & Me by Cocoon Maldives in the northern Raa atoll.

Cocoon Maldives. PHOTO/ COCOON
The H2O undersea restaurant at You & Me by Cocoon Maldives. PHOTO/ COCOON

Akbar Brothers is Sri Lanka’s biggest tea exporter. The group has a diversified portfolio of investments in the sectors of tea, power generation, healthcare, packaging, property development, real estate, hospitality and environmental services.

Well-wishers have donated medical supplies and protective equipment to support the Maldives’ efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Some of the notable donations include:

  • The Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation, the charity arms of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba and its billionaire founder Jack Ma: 10 ventilators, 90,000 disposable protective masks, 10,000 N95 protective masks, and 10,000 test kits.
  • Singaporean billionaire property tycoon Ong Beng Seng, whose Hotel Properties Limited (HPL) owns several resorts in the MaldivesEight ventilators: eight ventilators, and 100,000 face masks.
  • Daniel Kretinsky and Jiri Smejc, the Czech billionaires who own the ultra-luxury Velaa Private Island resort in the Maldives: Five ventilators, 10,000 test kits, 100,000 face masks, 200 respirators, and 500 PPE kits.

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 835.

Three deaths have been reported and 28 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.

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.

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