Maldives relaxes quarantine rules for home island returnees

Health authorities in Maldives have allowed people stranded in capital Male to return to their home island and self-isolate at home.

Since the capital was placed on lockdown on April 15, people were allowed to travel out of the city and to their home island only after completing a mandatory 14-day quarantine at a designated facility.

But new rules, issued by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) on Saturday, allow people in Male with no flu-like symptoms to return to their native or resident island and self-isolate at home. The government will make transport arrangements.

Home quarantine will only be allowed if no elderly people or pregnant women were sharing the premises.

During the 24-day home quarantine, no third party can enter the house. The person should stay in a separate room and use a separate toilet. Items such as bedsheets and cutleries used by the quarantined individual cannot be used by anyone else.

The quarantined individual will also have to send daily temperature records to the island’s health centre or focal point.

HPA says anti-body tests will be done at the end of the 24-day quarantine.

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 1,901.

Eight deaths have been reported and 763 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 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 were also shut.

Restaurants and cafes in the capital were 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 restrictions in the capital region are now being eased in phases, with the first phase lasting at least until mid June. Most restrictions remain in place for the time.

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