Onset of a second wave; may need to reimpose restrictions: HEOC

The Health Emergency Operation Centre, HEOC has warned that the current surge in COVID-19 cases in Maldives may be the onset of a second wave of infections.

The tourism dependent island nation closed its borders earlier in May as a precautionary measure against imported cases. After the first case of community spread was identified in populous capital Male’, the city was placed on lockdown for approximately two months. The lockdown was lifted on June 15 after which mosques resumed congregational prayers, and cafés were reopened. Schools were also opened for some higher grades. A significant increase in number of cases was recorded with the relaxations.

The positive cases recorded in the Indian Ocean archipelago began rising rapidly over the past week. While 370 cases were recorded over the span of 6 days, most cases were of locals. This is different to the initial surge in positive cases in which most cases were of migrant workers living in cramped conditions.
At the end of June, the Maldives recorded a tally of 2,367 and this figure has recorded a dramatic rise to 3,292 during this month. This is an increase of about 1,000 cases within a month.

Spokesperson of HEOC, Dr. Nazla Rafeeq have expressed concern over the staggering figures. She noted that the fact that 249 out of the 379 cases were of locals was extremely worrying. While most of the recent cases are new clusters unrelated to previously identified cases, the average number of contacts of positive cases has also increased, said the doctor.

“This means a large number of people are at risk of getting infected. The more locals that get infected, the more the elderly community and high risk groups will be exposed to the disease. Such groups are those that would suffer the direst consequences of the illness. Therefore, it is likely that the death toll may also increase,” warned Dr. Nazla.

Noting that the figures from this month are significantly higher than that of the previous month, Dr. Nazla said in addition to the rising number of cases, there are other indicators that signal a second wave of infections may have begun. If the indicators continue to worsen, it is possible that some of the measures previously lifted may have to be re-imposed, said the doctor.