COVID-19: Actual figures exceed projections; situation continues to worsen

165 days have passed since the first case of COVID-19 was detected in the Maldives. The number of cases increased from March 7 until late June, after which the figures began to slowly decline. At this point, authorities relaxed several precautionary measures taken in response to the pandemic.

However, the situation began to worsen within a month, and over 100 positive cases in a day became a norm. The number exceeded the 200-mark, after which some measures were reimposed.

A curfew has been in place since August 7 where the public are not allowed to leave their homes between 10:00pm and 05:00am. The use of masks have been made mandatory when out in public. Stricter measures are in place at shops and restaurants and other service providers.

However, despite the measures imposed 15 days ago, the number of daily cases have failed to fall. The daily figures fell from three digit to two digit figures only twice over the past two weeks.

Up until the curfew was imposed on August 7, the Maldives’ tally was at 4,446. Two weeks later, the tally has crossed the 6000-mark to reach 6,225 positive cases. This means, 1779 positive cases were registered within the span of 15 days.

At the time the curfew was imposed, 19 deaths had been recorded. The number is now at 24, with 5 deaths over the past two weeks.

These are not insignificant numbers. Infact, these are huge numbers for a country with this small a population. The measures being taken remain uneffective in bringing down the intimidating figures. This is the main concern of health officials.

Health Emergency Operation Centre, HEOC’s Spokesperson, Dr. Nazla Rafeeq said the situation in Maldives due to COVID-19 is still very dire. There have been no signs of improvement over the past 15 days.

However, the doctor believes there may be other factors contributing to the increasing number of cases. After a person is infected by a virus, it takes upto 14 days for symptoms to appear. Therefore, it is likely that most people who are testing positive now got infected before stricter measures were imposed.

“The positive results of the current measures in place will become evident only in about three weeks. So, we may not be seeing the direct results yet. It is possible that the cases we are seeing now are the results of infections from before [the measures were made stricter]. That could be why the number of daily cases are so high these days. It is our hope that the numbers would fall over the next few days,” said Dr. Nazla.

Actual figures exceed estimations

While the situation in Maldives continues to worsen day by day, authorities have warned that the current month would be the worst in terms of numbers. A previous study said 2,373 people are expected to test positive this month.

By July 31st, the tally had reached 3,793. This means 2,432 positive cases in 19 days. Based on these numbers, it is safe to say the numbers have already exceeded the projections.

The study also warned that around 450 people may require hospitalisation due to the infection. Since the beginning of the month, over 150 patients have been hospitalised, out of which 11 are in the ICU. 3 are on ventilator support.

Therefore, it would not be wrong to assume that the remaining ten days of August would continue to be risky.

Stricter measures will be imposed

Although the positive effects of the current measures may become evident in the upcoming days, there is also a chance that the situation would continue to worsen.

Authorities are in constant discussion regarding the next steps that may be taken. While health experts believe stricter measures need to be taken, discussions regarding extending curfew hours and limiting social gatherings have taken place.

It has already been decided that schools in capital Male’ region will continue to remain closed for the next two weeks. Religious scholars have been consulted regarding the possible implementation of social distancing measures during prayer congregation. The need for such a measure is important due to the worsening situation, health experts believe.

While the number of cases have already exceeded projections, it is unlikely that the situation would improve before November, as previously expected. Therefore, strict measures need to be taken before the circumstance gets even worse. The fact that the current measures have not contributed to a decrease in the number of cases is evidence enough that stricter measures are necessary. If not, the already vulnerable health system may become overburdened, resulting in the deaths of many.