The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a pandemic on Wednesday and the Maldives declared a State of Health Emergency soon after. So, what does this 30-day period mean for the Maldives?
What is a State of Health Emergency?
According to the Public Health Act (7/2012), a health emergency can be declared to mitigate the effects of an outbreak, if evidence shows that the country’s public health is at risk. It further states that the Director-General of Public Health has the discretionary authority to do so and take the necessary measures required to protect the well-being of citizens.
What steps can the Maldives’ take in State of Health Emergency?
The legislation also describes the steps the Director General can take during such circumstances, which include;
a. Launching vaccination programmes
b. Shutting down educational institutions and banning public gatherings
c. Restricting entry to certain locations during certain times
d. Providing assistance and resources to individuals requiring quarantine
e. Closing modes of entry into the country via air, sea or land.
The state of public health emergency invokes strict measures for public gathering and as such, the Elections Commission of Maldives (EC) also announced that the upcoming local council elections and women’s development committee elections have been delayed by two weeks, from April 4 to the 18th. And while schools reopening after mid-term holidays was delayed by a week earlier, the declaration of a state of public health emergency could extend the delay.
Male’ City Council had earlier cancelled the annual pre-Ramadan night market and has since closed off parks and public spaces where people tend to gather in the capital in compliance with the state of public health emergency. Additionally, the HPA has banned all excursions across the country for a period of 10 days.
The state has also urged people not to visit hospitals unless absolutely necessary and resorts where suspected cases have surfaced were put under lockdown and have since had these temporary measures lifted.
While quarantine facilities have been established and bans on direct flights have been placed on countries where serious outbreaks have emerged, the state of health emergency will ensure stricter restrictions on travel in and out of the country.
The state has also established a total of three clinics; a flu clinic for patients with symptoms but no travel history to impacted countries, a travel clinic for patients with travel histories and an expatriate clinic specially for the migrant community.
A 12-bed isolation facility in Hulhumalé Hospital and a four-bed isolated Intensive Care Unit in Dharumavantha Hospital had also been established before the discovery of any confirmed cases in the country.
While WHO has urged countries to make containing coronavirus 'highest priority', Maldives health emergency declaration can help mitigate further spread of the disease.
Maldives confirmed its ninth Covid-19 case on Friday.