Maldives has confirmed four cases of coronavirus since Saturday.
The cases were discovered in Kuredu Island Resort and Bathala Island Maldives, two each, these islands are now on lockdown with travel restrictions. There were two individuals quarantined and eight in isolation by Monday morning.
While it is just four now, we have seen how quickly this disease multiplies in other countries; even in ones with relatively strong public health systems.
However, as the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “this is a time for facts, not fear. This is a time for rationality, not rumours. This is a time for solidarity, not stigma”.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih called on the public to remain calm and follow instructions of health agencies and experts, as he assured that the government is doing everything to ensure the safety of the Maldivian people.
He has formed taskforces with technical staff and experts, along with officials from stakeholder agencies, to ensure that preventive measures are being taken in a timely manner. He has appointed a spokesperson dedicated to all things Covid-19, and the government has been holding press conferences twice a day, which is in line with the president’s commitment to sharing accurate and timely information with the public.
Other government officials have also called on the public not to panic, urging everyone to regularly wash their hands throughout the day.
However, reports continue to increase of empty shop shelves as people rush to stock up on basic products especially hand sanitizers and soaps. When authorities confirmed the first two cases late Saturday night, people quickly queued up at pharmacies to buy masks and sanitizers.
Across the globe
Most of the fear and panic stem from misleading information. While we see number of deaths continuously increasing, the raw data provided by John Hopkins on GITHUB shows that it the fatalities are actually decreasing worldwide.
To date, there are 3,826 reported deaths due to Covid-19 with 110,146 confirmed cases worldwide. A total 62,053 people have recovered from the virus.
It is time to do our civic duty
While there are concerns over entire islands being quarantined, people that could have had contact with patients or with primary contacts are advised to stay at home for a 14-day period. This is to curb an outbreak in the country.
Coronavirus spreads from one person to the next, and Maldives is lucky to be an island nation as it allows us to monitor things more efficiently.
Locking down islands after discovery of positive cases is not an overreaction, but an advantage the archipelago nation has.
Quarantining the islands will help to stop the spread of the disease, however, it only works if the people fulfill their civic responsibilities; much like the Italian tourist that informed local authorities of having tested for Covid-19 after returning home.
People love theories and conspiracies; however, civic responsibility is of utmost priority at this time.
What does that entail? Well, as fear spreads faster than panic, our first duty is to inform ourselves on the dangers of the virus. By doing that, we will know that people younger than 40 do not have to worry as much as the elderly, so check on your parents and older relatives and acquaintances. Stay in if you are sick, and if you absolutely must leave the house, wear the required mask so as not to infect others. And if you feel like you have been exposed to an individual that has had contact with a suspected or confirmed patient, practice self-isolation and inform authorities of the situation. And last but the least, follow the guidelines set by policymakers and health experts that are monitoring the situation.
This epidemic can be pushed back but only with a coordinated and comprehensive approach that engages the entire machinery of government. We’re calling on every country to act with speed, scale and clear-minded determination.
~ WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus