State of public health emergency extended by another month

Housing Minister and Acting Health Minister Mohmed Aslam (R) with Health Minister Abdulla Ameen (L). (Photo/Health Ministry)

Housing Minister Mohamed Aslam, who has taken over as Acting Health Minister, has ordered for the state of public health emergency declared in Maldives in response to the coronavirus pandemic to be extended to October 6.

Maldives identified its first coronavirus case on March 7, and declared a state of public health emergency over the pandemic less than a week later on March 12.

Since then, the duration of the state of public health emergency has been extended multiple times. The latest extension order comes with the previous order, issued on August 7, set to expire this Sunday.

The declaration announcing the extension of the state of public health emergency to October 6 was issued by Aslam on Sunday evening.

Aslam took over the responsibilities of Health Minister in August, after Abdulla Ameen voluntarily stepped aside from his duties as Health Minister pending an investigation into the findings of an audit on COVID-19 related spending by the Health Ministry.

Aslam said in the declaration announcing the latest extension to the state of public health emergency that the Director General of Public Health has advised him that the threat of a severe nationwide outbreak remained prevalent, and that Maldives needed to implement special measures to mitigate the threat and ascertain the health and safety of the people.

“I, under the powers vested in me under the aforementioned [Public Health] Act, hereby announce the decision to extend the state of public health emergency which has been declared nationwide from March 12, 2020 to October 6, 2020,” announced Aslam in his declaration.

The Public Health Act grants the Health Minister the authority to declare a state of public health emergency either nationwide, or in select areas, if the Director General of Public Health, based on evidence, establishes there to a public health emergency in Maldives, and finds that it warrants special measures to solve or contain it, and counsels the Health Minister as such.

The declaration of a state of public health emergency on March 12 had marked the first time for the provision on the Public Health Act to be invoked, since the Act’s enactment in 2012.

While coronavirus cases had initially been restricted to resorts and safaris, and later quarantine facilities holding inbound travelers, Male’ City identified its first coronavirus case on April 15, prompting a city-wide lockdown and a nationwide ban on nonessential travel.

The populous capital quickly emerged as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Maldives, contributing to over 90 percent of total cases.

Maldives has 8,584 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 98 new cases recorded this Sunday. 5,936 of the patients have recovered, while 29 have died from complications. 147 coronavirus patients are hospitalized.