State of public health emergency extended to March 5

Ambulances drive along a street in Male' City on May 28, 2020. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Health Minister Ahmed Naseem (Kerafa Naseem) has ordered for the state of public health emergency declared in Maldives in response to the coronavirus pandemic to be extended to March 5.

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 January 4, set to expire this Wednesday.

Naseem said in the declaration announcing the latest extension to the state of public health emergency this Wednesday 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, with 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 March 5, 2021,” announced Naseem 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.

The decision to extend the state of public health emergency comes as Maldives faces a third wave of COVID-19, which threatens to impede the vaccine drive launched earlier this week.

The surge in cases has prompted authorities to reinstate a curfew in Male’ region from 11:00 pm to 4:30 am, impose a ban on vehicular traffic from 8:30 pm to 4:30 pm, and limit opening hours of business establishments such as shops and restaurants.

Maldives has 16,155 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 99 new cases recorded on Tuesday. 14,263 of the patients have recovered, while 52 have died from complications.

The country currently has 1,833 active cases. 186 coronavirus patients are hospitalized.