State of public health emergency extended

Health Minister Ahmed Naseem. (Sun Photo)

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 September 1. 

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 July 3, set to expire this Monday. 

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 September 1, 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 authorities ease restrictions imposed to control COVID-19 following a drop in cases. 

While cases continue to be low in the greater Male’ region, cases have been on the rise in residential islands in the atolls. 

Maldives has 77,547 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 115 new cases recorded on Sunday. 74,758 patients have since recovered, while 221 have died from complications. 

The country currently has 2,556 active cases. 20 of the patients are hospitalized. 

Maldives is set to launch an ambitious campaign this week to fully vaccinate 90 percent of the eligible population in Maldives by the end of August.