Maldives calls for universal access to coronavirus vaccine

Maldives has called for any vaccine or treatment invented to combat Covid-19 to be made accessible to all countries.

Representing the Maldives at the Friday’s launch of a global initiative aimed at sharing vaccines, medicines and diagnostic tools to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, health minister Abdulla Ameen said the pandemic has shown the necessity for global cooperation.

Ameen said the pandemic had exposed the vulnerabilities of many countries and that support for developing countries in particular must be strengthened.

All countries should share vital healthcare information and technology while working together to protect the fundamental human right to healthcare, he added.

The developing nations’ push, called the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, was initiated by Costa Rica.

The World Health Organisation issued a “Solidarity Call to Action”, asking other stakeholders to join the push.

The WHO effort comes amid concerns rich countries pumping resources into finding vaccines — more than 100 are in development — will muscle their way to the front of the queue, once a candidate succeeds.

The effort, originally proposed in March and officially launched on Friday, aims to provide a one-stop shop for scientific knowledge, data and intellectual property amid a pandemic that has infected more than 6 million people and killed some 360,000.

Countries to sign up are Argentina, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Indonesia, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Mozambique, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Africa, Sudan, the Netherlands, East Timor and Uruguay, the WHO said.

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 1,672.

Five deaths have been reported and 406 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.

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