Maldives evacuates over 100 citizens from Europe, Asia

Maldives has evacuated 103 citizens stranded in Europe and Asia due to travel restrictions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

A SriLankan Airlines flight from London to Male on Sunday carried 23 Maldivians stranded in the United Kingdom.

Forty-eight students stranded in Belarus also joined the flight after travelling to London from Minsk. Out of 139 registered Maldivians in Belarus, the 48 requested evacuation, according to Maldivian officials.

The aircraft also made a stop in Colombo to allow 32 Maldivians stranded in Sri Lanka to join the repatriation flight. They were stranded after travelling to Sri Lanka for medical treatment and were being cared for by the Maldivian embassy in Colombo.

All the evacuees will be quarantined for 14 days.

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.

Photo: A file photo taken in 2019 shows the an identification plaque outside the Maldivian high commission in London, United Kingdom. PHOTO: 45SPACES.COM

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