Maldives In The Time of COVID19

Manal Khaleedh

Let’s face it, right now the only thing on all our collective minds are COVID19 and the current lockdown and the hardship people are going through. But how did we come to this point? How did we go from a go happy hyper political nation to a lockdown with no food situation? For this we need to head back to December 31st 2019 Wuhan, China. The World Health Organization was alerted to a possible new and unusual strain of pneumonia being detected in an increasing number of patients.

By January 7th authorities had identified a new virus associated with the new strain of pneumonia. By then “ Novel Corona Virus” was starting to make headlines worldwide with little to no action being taken by world leaders against it. By January 11th the first death occurred due to the new virus, one 61 year old man from Wuhan. By then the number of infected cases increased exponentially with the WHO declaring global emergency status by January 30th 2020. By February 11th WHO had named the new virus COVID19.

During this whole affair political activists and concerned citizens were already calling for the government to take preventive measures against the spread of the virus. Prominent doctors were already advising on the social medias to exercise social distancing and to wash hands and practice good hygiene. However, authorities failed to take any measures against the spread of the virus until 7th March when two expats were identified to be positive to COVID 19. Following the media press briefing incumbent Health minister Abdulla Ameen reassured to the public that they were ready for a “worst case scenario”.

By 19th March Maldives Health protection Agency had declared “Public Health Emergency” status and took a series of counter measures to slow the spread of the virus. Authorities faced much criticism due to the fact that even at that point, commercial flights were being operated in and out of the country with a massive influx of tourists  looking to escape the spread of the virus in their native lands. This finally came to an end when the nation’s borders were closed to commercial flights on the 29th of March. On the 2nd of April a 3 hour curfew was announced in the nation’s capital city of Male’ City. Subject to much criticism due to the weak enforcement, the curfew only lasted 5 days after which it was lifted. During this week authorities continued to reassure the public that they were ready for a worst case scenario and the head of the state himself reassured to the public that the economy will head to a boom at the end of the 3rd fiscal quarter. However, on the 15th of April the first positive case was identified in the Male’ city and the nation was ordered into lockdown which brings us to now.

Since December 31st 2019, authorities has had 109 days to prepare for the worst case scenario of a nationwide lockdown but the situation is far from what one would call a planned lockdown. Permits and plans for delivery of essential goods were not finalized and issued prior to the lockdown. Authorities only started issuing delivery permits the following day where a massive number of panicked buyers had ordered food in bulk. The little enterprises tasked with these deliveries are simply unable to cater for the growing demands of hungry and desperate citizens. It was only on the 3rd day of the lockdown that troops were sent out to aid in the delivery of these essential goods.

Now the question arises, why didn’t the authorities prepare for this lockdown during the curfew period? Wouldn’t that have provided an ideal training period for them to set up delivery methods and routes of communication to ensure that the public is not deprived of their essential needs in case of a nationwide lockdown?. Failure to ensure the setup a delivery system of essential needs for a mere population of 450,000 people is nothing short of a bureaucratic blunder which could go on to cost human lives as reports are coming in of diabetic patients running out of foods and showing initial symptoms of hypoglycemic shock. We cannot go on to say that each of these negligence’s are a learning experiences of those tasked with managing these issues. When human lives are at stake, there is simply no room for errors and misjudgments.

“We will be guilty of criminal negligence, without extenuation, if we permit future famines.” ~ Norman Borlaug

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