Difficult and challenging days ahead, warns health minister

Health Minister Abdulla Ameen has warned that the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths could increase in the Maldives over the next few days, and urged the public to take necessary precautions.

The total number of positive cases identified in the Maldives is now 280. Maldives recorded its first COVID-19 related death on Wednesday. The 83 year woman was identified as a primary contact of a positive case during contact tracing. She passed away before the positive results of her test came back.

Speaking at an emergency press conference held in the early hours of Thursday, Minister Ameen said the number of positive cases will likely increase as the situation in the country worsens. The number of people in critical condition and those who die from complications could also increase, warned the minister.

The minister acknowledged several challenges in controlling the pandemic in the archipelago, noting the biggest obstacle to be the living conditions of expatriate workers in the capital. The housing issues in Male' which forces residents to live in cramped and congested conditions adds further challenges, said the minister.

Minister Ameen noted that the government took adequate steps when the pandemic started spreading in the Maldives, and said the positive results of the lockdown imposed on Male' city is becoming more evident. However, the ultimate benefits of the move will only become clear, and the number of infections can only be decreased if every person obeys the instructions of the authorities, said the minister.

"We are all aware of the challenges we will face if the healthcare system is over-burdened. This is why we have been preparing for such a situation since day one", said the minister.

Ameen said the government's highest priority at this time is to collect and test as many samples as possible, and obtain results at the earliest in order to isolate and treat those infected with the virus. He urged anyone who develops symptoms of the virus to report the information to HPA at the earliest.

The minister said the days ahead will be difficult and harrowing, and that the situation may force authorities to opt for home quarantine instead of transferring positive patients to designated quarantine facilities. The government is preparing for such a situation and developing the necessary resources, said the minister.