'Will not force elderly to give random samples' : NEOC

The National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) on Monday said the centre would not force the elderly to provide random samples for COVID-19 testing.

The centre has acknowledged that it has not been receiving adequate support in taking random samples from the elderly to understand the extent that COVID-19 has spread among the vulnerable group. NEOC has called for public cooperation on several occasions, stressing the significance of understanding the transmission of COVID-19 among high risk groups.

The centre has previously sought court orders to collect samples of those who refuse to provide samples. However, this does not apply to random samples collected from the elderly, said Dr. Ibrahim Afzal from NEOC during the centre's press conference held Monday. Random samples are not taken due to suspicious cases, and therefore, the government will not 'force' anyone to provide random samples, said the doctor.

Dr. Afzal said most elderly people and their families refuse to provide their samples as they do not believe they may be affected by the virus given that they have been staying home as per the advice of health professionals. However, the assurance that one does not have the virus will be comforting despite no symptoms or apparent exposure to the virus, NEOC said, urging the public to cooperate with the centre.

A random sample collected from among the elderly recently tested positive. While the virus is especially dangerous for the elderly, three out of the four COVID-19 related fatalities recorded in the Maldives are of eldery people.