Conflict Alerts # 49, 18 March 2020
Maldives confirmed its first two cases of COVID-19 on 7 March 2020 both employees at Kuredhoo Island Resort from an Italian tourist. On 9 March two other COVID-19 cases were confirmed both from tourists. As of 17 March, there are 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Maldives.
Immediately after the first two cases were confirmed, four Resorts of Kuredu, Vilamendhoo, Batalaa and Kuramathi island were placed under temporary quarantine. Schools have been closed as precautionary measures. Out of the 13 cases confirmed so far, most are foreign nationals. The four foreign Nationals from Kuredu Island Resort who tested positive are recovering well in isolation. Three islands which were temporarily restricted for entry/exit were screened thoroughly and reopened for travel.
As on 17 March, 15 people are in isolation in Farukolhu island, and 13 are in quarantine in Villivaru island awaiting results of the tests. A few have been released after 14 days isolation. Two Maldivians living in Wuhan evacuated to India continue to be in 14-day isolation. Contact tracing has been completed in all the above-mentioned islands with a few persons placed under room isolation and self-monitoring in resorts islands. The National Emergency Operations Centre is working 24/7 to determine the gaps and strengthen response in addition to enhancing contact tracing. Authorities say the island is well stocked. The Government of Maldives announced a ban on entry into Maldives of anyone who has left or transited the UK in the last 14 days, with effect from 18 March.
The Government of Maldives has declared a Public Health Emergency, effective until 10 April. For 14 days, effective from 14 March, travel from and to resorts from all inhabited islands have been suspended. Excursions have been limited, and public spaces like parks or sports grounds are temporarily closed. All cruise ships are currently banned from entering and docking in the Maldives. Besides, all persons who have been in the last 14 days to Mainland China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, Bangladesh, Spain, Germany and France are not allowed to enter or transit through the Maldives. Passengers and airline crew must undergo a screening procedure. WHO has been helping efforts to contain the virus through teleconference awareness calls and COVID19 test kits. Sitreps are shared daily and new technical documents immediately.
Another important angle to look at is that even though the Maldives declared a 30-day Public Health Emergency, it hasn't rescheduled its local council elections scheduled for 4 April which generally sees high voter turnout. The political opposition has although suspended its campaign after early cases of virus outbreak. However, "If COVID-19 infects Maldives' local population, predictions suggest 60% to 80% could be affected without government intervention" says foreign affairs minister Abdulla Shahid.
Tourists who have been kept under quarantine at the luxury Maldives resorts cited "lack of information" and "workers in hazardous material clothing". All guests and staff were restricted from leaving until further notice.
A few people, including the Italian guests, refused isolations at the resort and insisted on using facilities like the restaurants and bars. Besides, a few people began panicking, and sanitisers were stolen at the resorts but largely the virus has been well contained so far and has not escalated into community spread.