Information last updated: 7 April, 2020
Health Emergency until April 12 – Greater Male Region under curfew.
Currently, there are 19 active cases in the Maldives – 15 foreign nationals (eiter tourists or staff working in resorts or safari vessels) and four nationals (those returning from the UK). The government has declared a health emergency as of March 12, 2020, but no known community transmission as of April 6, 2020.
Response set up and capacity
The President, Cabinet of Ministers, and particularly the Minister of Health are in charge of coordinating a response to the pandemic. As of now, the Minister has declared a 30-day Health Emergency across the country. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) also has authority over several matters, including shutting down schools and banning public gatherings, measures that are yet to be taken.
At the moment, there are 97 ventilators in the Maldives. Authorities are expected to receive a shipment of 70 more ventilators in the coming weeks. To date, the World Health Organization has donated 17,000 testing kits to the Maldives.
Entities / Organizations
• National Disaster Management Authority
• Ministry of Health
• Ministry of Defence and National Security
• Maldives Police Service
• President’s Office
• Maldives Red Crescent
• UN Agencies - UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP
• World Bank
Mitigating factors - What is being done?
The President has announced that the economy of the Maldives will likely be hit hard by the pandemic, with the estimated GDP growth for 2020 of 7.5% expected to go down to between 0.5 and -5.6%. The main contributor to GDP is tourism, which accounted for 20.2% GDP in 2018. Currently a number of private sector companies are already taking measures to shut down resorts and sending off staff without any compensation. According to 2014 census data, 52.3% staff working in resorts are Maldivian (92.6% male, 7.4% female) while 47.7% staff working are foreign (88.1% male, 11.9% female). There is some probability that the Maldives (at least Malé) will soon enter into a lockdown.
As an added precautionary measure, all cruise ships have also been rejected entry and stopover. All ports are being monitored and restrictions also included cargo and freight. Use of all public grounds, parks and cinemas are to be halted until further notice. Tourist check-ins to guest houses and city hotels in the Greater Male’ Area (Male’, Hulhumale’ and Villimale’) have been temporarily suspended with exceptions for diplomats from accredited Missions intending to travel to the Maldives.
Isolation and quarantine facilities have been set up in 12 designated islands near the greater Male area and for different levels of severity, including for Maldivian nationals returning from other countries. Currently several people are quarantined in isolation facilities, and four cases are being treated at the hospital. However, it is unclear what the national ICU capacity is at the current moment. Contact tracing is done for each case and suspected case, and potential contacts are asked to self-isolate. There is now a need for a comprehensive national public health risk communication strategy, to address multiple outbreaks including the COVID-19, Measles, and Chickenpox.
- February 4 – Travel restriction put in place for travelers from China
- February 26 – Travel restriction put in place for travelers from Iran
- March 3 – Travel restriction are extended to include South Korea (North and South Gyeongsang Provinces)
- March 7 – First positive case is identified at Kuredu Island Resort
- March 8 – Travel restrictions extended to include Italy
- March 12 – Minister of Health declares Public Health Emergency for 30 days
- March 14 – All universities, colleges and other academic institutions suspended all activities on campus for 2 weeks.
- March 15 – Travel restrictions extended to Germany (Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg), Spain (All provinces and regions), France (Île-de-France and Grand Est). Progressively, restrictions are added for travelers from Malaysia, USA, UK, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
- March 19 – Government closes offices for one week, now extended until April 9; all schools, colleges and universities closed through April 9 2020.
- March 27 – The Government of Maldives temporarily suspends the issuance of all on-arrival visas
- April 2 – Government has imposed curfew from 5 to 8pm and banned construction from 5pm to 6am to the Greater Male’ Region (Male’, Hulhumale’ and Villimale’). At any time during the day public gatherings exceeding 3 people are not allowed.
As of now, the President has announced several measures the government will take to mitigate the impact from the pandemic. This includes a stimulus package of 2.5b Maldivina Rufiyaa, providing financial assistance to business through loan schemes, deferrals on student loans, and subsidies for household electricity and water bills.
Risks, vulnerabilities, obstacles
- Women and girls could be impacted by the pandemic, and its consequences in many ways. From past experiences, resources have been diverted to contain and respond to public health emergencies, whilst limiting support to routine health care services. Pregnant women may have disruptions in ANC/PNC and challenges to breastfeeding. Many women are in the informal sector and 40% of households in Maldives are female headed – these households are likely to be poorer than male headed households. With the extended closing of schools under the state of health emergency, women face additional burdens, including childcare, and will likely be impacted disproportionately by the unfolding situation.
- During emergencies, the risk of violence, exploitation and abuse is likely to increase, particularly for women and girls. With a heightened burden on the healthcare systems, protection systems for women and girls may weaken, further exacerbating pre-existing inequalities. The Maldives Demographic Health Survey reports that 16.7 % of women aged 15 and above face violence by an intimate partner in the last year.
- According to population projections the Maldives has a resident foreign population of 178,156, of which 67,496 are in Male’. With resorts closing down large numbers of working migrants will be affected and existing inequalities may be exacerbated. The bulk of migrant workers in Maldives are within the construction sector and face congested living conditions. Lack of resources can hinder access to life-saving health services.
- Under these circumstances and in any emergencies, some of the most vulnerable groups who will have immediate as well as longer term impacts include the elderly, the poor, children, and migrants. Population projections estimate that 18,598 (6,442 in Male’) are over 65 years, out of which 4177 (1095 in Male’) are above 80 years.
- Elderly: According to MOGFSS, there are 19,730 65+ population, which has proven to be the most vulnerable group to COVID-19 due to a higher fatality rate. This sector of the population may have difficulty caring for themselves and may be dependent on family or caregivers.
- People with Disabilities: 7,771 PWD are registered with NSPA and receive allowances. The recently conducted evaluation indicates only 25% of the disabled population receives benefit. The PWDs may become socially isolated if there is no regular access to the community through education or employment. PwD with specific communication needs will have barriers to accessing information circulated about COVID-19
- Bed ridden patients: Around 1200 bedridden elderly patients are registered with the Ministry of Gender. Out of which 58 are in Male’. Due to high rise buildings it has been often challenging to provide services. May have difficulty caring for themselves and be dependent on family or caregivers.
Potential actions and demands
Demands currently include mapping and surveys, on one hand, to identify where vulnerable people may be, and surveys to assess current socio-economic impacts as a result of the COVID pandemic. The World Bank, UNDP, ILO, FAO and other organizations are planning on field work of their research.