Maldives records two virus cases – lowest since community spread began
Only two people tested positive for coronavirus in the Maldives Sunday — the lowest daily increase since the virus began spreading in the community almost two months ago.
Health Protection Agency (HPA) said the two that tested positive for the Covid-19 respiratory disease caused by the virus were Maldivians.
The confirmed local transmission clusters in the country now include 1,002 Bangladeshis, 639 Maldivians, 190 Indians, 24 Nepalis, 10 Sri Lankans and three Pakistanis.
Health officials warned of a potential surge in the number of coronavirus cases in the last two weeks of May, with projections as high as 1,600 new cases on the peak day of May 31.
But the actual figures were lower. Despite a surge at the end of May and in the first few days of June, the daily figures did not cross 100 except on June 1 when the country reported 101 new infections.
Authorities managed to mitigate the spread of the virus and the Covid-19 respiratory disease it causes amongst the Maldives’ citizens and residents early on by closing the Indian Ocean tourist paradise’s borders, earning praise from the World Health Organisation.
But the disease later spread rapidly within the large migrant worker community in capital Male. Authorities have ramped up relocating workers from the cramped up dormitories in one of the world’s most densely populated cities to temporary accommodation units.
An estimated 63,000 foreign nationals work in the Maldives illegally out of a migrant worker population close to 145,000.
Foreign workers in the Maldives, predominantly Bangladeshi and Indian men, are subjected to practices indicative of forced labour, including fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or non-payment of wages, and debt bondage.
As most migrant workers live in extremely poor conditions, a widespread outbreak amongst them could lead to large virus clusters, overwhelming the country’s already under staffed and strained healthcare system and making it harder for authorities to contain the spread of the virus.
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 1,903.
Eight deaths have been reported and 827 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.
Photo: Sun Online