'Govt will follow advise of health professionals' - NEOC

The National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) has assured that the top priority of the Maldives government is to ensure the safety of the people, and that the government would heed advice given by health professionals.

In recent days, several political figures including parliament members have criticized measures taken by the government to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the Maldives, including its decision to close the country's borders. Many have been lobbying to lift the measures imposed on the country, including a lockdown that has been in effect since April 15.

Speaking at NEOC's daily press conference on Tuesday, NEOC Spokesperson Mohamed Mabrook Azeez said although parliament members are representatives of the people, and their input on matters are important, the government will only listen to health professionals regarding any measures taken to counter the COVID-19 pandemic during the current situation. Every step taken by the government is a step taken to ensure the safety of the public, said Mabrook, adding that the strategies of health professionals and those of politicians will widely differ.

"We receive instructions from health professionals. They advise us on ensuring the safety and protection of the public, they advise on what steps the country must take, what must be done to save the lives of the members of the public. I believe there is a difference in opinion [among politicians and health care professionals]," said Mabrook.

Mabrook further said there is no need for a country or an economy if the safety of its citizens are compromised.

"Since day one, we have been stressing that the safety and protection of the country's residents are our top priority. If there is no safety and protection, what good is an economy? Therefore, every step we take prioritizes the safety of the people. I do not believe we need the advice of anyone but health professionals," said Mabrook.

Earlier this week, the Speaker of the Parliament, Mohamed Nasheed expressed concern that island residents stranded in Male' due to the lockdown imposed on the city could not return to their homes in a timely manner. Nasheed said there is no reason for the government to delay taking action on the concerns of the public. He expressed disappointment that the government 'was not taking any measures to resolve the issues'.

'Every person must know, even the president must know that a large number of people stranded in Male' will cause lots of problems for their families,' Nasheed had said, heavily criticizing the government's stance on the matter.