Maldives gets 580 tons of food aid from India

Maldives received 580 tons of food aid from India Tuesday.

The supplies that arrived aboard Indian navy ship INS Kesari include:

  • Parboiled rice: 200 tons
  • Wheat flour: 140 tons
  • Sugar: 80 tons
  • Yellow dal: 120 tons
  • Onions: 26 tons
  • Potatoes: 14 tons

The Indian embassy in Male said the aid followed a telephone conversation between Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 20 “when the two leaders discussed bilateral cooperation in the wake of Covid-19”.

“This food aid is a token of friendship from the people of India to the people of the Maldives during the holy month of Ramadan,” a statement read.

The embassy stressed that both the Maldives and India “have supported a regional strategy to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects on [the] peoples.”

The Maldives is the first stop in the Indian warship’s voyage to five Indian Ocean countries.

After offloading the food supplies to the port in Male, the ship will deliver essential medicines to Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros and Seychelles. Two medical assistance teams will also be deployed in Mauritius and Comoros.

India has been assisting the Maldives in its coronavirus response efforts from the start, including in the evacuation of Maldivians stranded in Wuhan, China where the virus originated.

New Delhi has also sent a medical team along with essential medicines and other supplies.

A $400 million currency swap between the central banks of Maldives and India has also been activated, allowing the Maldives to draw $150 million in emergency funding to shore up its hard-hit economy.

Meanwhile, India is evacuating over 1,800 citizens stranded in the Maldives. Two out of four planned evacuation exercises were conducted over the past week.

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 897.

Three deaths have been reported and 31 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 13 per cent economic contraction this year — an estimated $778 million hit.

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