Local Imam tests positive for virus upon random sampling

Ambulances parked by the Fishermen's Park in Male' City on May 12, 2020. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

A local Imam has tested positive for COVID-19 in the Maldives.

The man who serves as the Imam of a mosque in Henveiru had tested positive and still remains isolated inside the mosque.

Sun has learned that the man was preaching the prayer call for Asr when the Health Protection Agency (HPA) contacted him. The agency informed the man that he had tested positive for the virus. The Imam still remains inside the mosque until the authorities arrange isolation transportation for the man. 

Islamic Ministry spokesperson Ismail Afrah stated that the man had tested positive after samples were collected randomly from the street. He added that disinfection efforts for the mosque are now being conducted in collaboration with City Council. 

On March 18, authorities had issued a suspended collective prayer conducted in mosques due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The first case of the virus was identified on March 7 from a tourist in a resort. 

A community outbreak of the virus was later identified on April 15. Mosques in the country were officially closed to the public after the initial case in the capital. The closure of mosques is set to last until May 28, after the lockdown order was extended last night.

The Maldives has so far confirmed 1020 cases of the virus. The country passed the 1000 case mark today. The majority of the cases have been identified in the capital. 

However, this is the first known case of an Imam testing positive for the virus. Previously, MNDF officers and Police have also tested positive for the virus. Most of the cases in the capital had originated among the large migrant worker community.

Cases were also identified in the islands of Hinmafushi in K. Atoll and Manadhoo in N. Atoll. Nine had tested positive from Manadhoo after contact with an elderly virus patient. Three individuals have also tested positive today from the Rehabilitation Center in Hinmafushi. Both islands are in a state of lockdown following the confirmed cases. 

Inter-island travel has also been banned across the country in a bid to curb the virus, and authorities have repeatedly advised the public to adhere to the instructions to effectively control the virus. 

The country is expected to observe a surge in the number of cases by the end of this month. Experts have now reduced the initial projections due to the effectiveness of lockdown measures, and are now expecting a smaller surge.

Projections made for the country currently show that it could see 77,000 cases in total. The number of deaths could be as high as 900.