Dr. Afzal: Lifting lockdown risks spreading virus to other islands

Health Protection Agency (HPA) epidemiologist Dr. Ibrahim Afzal at a National Emergency Operations Center press briefing. (Photo/NEOC)

Health Protection Agency (HPA) epidemiologist Dr. Ibrahim Afzal, on Sunday, said the trend of COVID-19 infections indicated high risk of COVID-19 spreading to other residential islands, making it impossible for the lockdown on the Greater Male’ Region to be lifted.

Responding to a question at the National Emergency Operations Center press briefing on Sunday night, Dr. Afzal said that the lockdown can only be lifted once new cases within the capital go down.

He said the new infections were among a group of people with high mobility, while infections among people who stay home were low.

“Therefore the reality is, we will reach the point whether lifting the lockdown in viable once we identify the backlog of cases, and the numbers begin coming down to a certain extent,” said Dr. Afzal.

Virus cases in Maldives have now risen to 214, with HPA reporting the biggest one-day increase in new cases on Sunday with 74 cases.

While the bulk of the virus cases were in Male’, cases have also been identified in at least three other residential islands; H. A. Uligan, Sh. Narudhoo, and K. Thulusdhoo.

Dr. Afzal said the risk of spreading the virus to other islands must be considered before lifting the lockdown.

“It’s possible the virus will spread to islands within the coming days. We therefore cannot lift the lockdown until we establish which way it will go,” he said.

Health Minister Abdulla Ameen himself recently suggested that the 14-day lockdown on the Greater Male’ Region will be extended.

“I don’t want to say anything regarding the future. But the current situation is such that it does not warrant lifting the lockdown. The current situation isn’t such that we can return to normal life,” said Ameen at a NEOC press briefing on Saturday.

HPA has now begun conducting surveillance testing in order to gauge the extent of the spread of the virus.