State of public health emergency extended by another month

Health Minister Ahmed Naseem. (Photo/President's Office)

Health Minister Ahmed Naseem has ordered for the state of public health emergency declared in Maldives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to be extended to July 3.

Maldives identified its first COVID-19 case on March 7, and declared a state of public health emergency over the pandemic less than a week later on March 12.

Since then, the duration of the state of public health emergency has been extended multiple times. The latest extension order comes with the previous order, issued on May 4, set to expire this Thursday.

Naseem said in the declaration announcing the latest extension to the state of public health emergency this Wednesday that the Director General of Public Health has advised him that the threat of a severe nationwide outbreak remained prevalent, and that Maldives needed to implement special measures to mitigate the threat and ascertain the health and safety of the people.

“I, with the powers vested in me under the aforementioned [Public Health] Act, hereby announce the decision to extend the state of public health emergency which has been declared nationwide from March 12, 2020 to July 3, 2021,” announced Naseem in his declaration.

The Public Health Act grants the Health Minister the authority to declare a state of public health emergency either nationwide, or in select areas, if the Director General of Public Health, based on evidence, establishes there to a public health emergency in Maldives, and finds that it warrants special measures to solve or contain it, and counsels the Health Minister as such.

The declaration of a state of public health emergency on March 12 had marked the first time for the provision on the Public Health Act to be invoked, since the Act’s enactment in 2012.

The extension of the state of public health emergency comes as Maldives experiences a surge in COVID-19 infections – both in the capital and in residential islands outside the capital.

Last May saw the highest number of COVID-19 fatalities in a single month, with 88 deaths.

Maldives has 65,865 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 704 new cases recorded on Wednesday. 41,779 patients have since recovered, while 173 have died from complications.

The country currently has 23,909 active cases. 197 of the patients are hospitalized.

The surge in cases has prompted health authorities to tighten restrictions, both in the populous Male’ City area and other residential areas with confirmed COVID-19 cases.