بِسْمِ ٱللّٰهِ ٱلرَّحْمٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
Beloved citizens of the Maldives,
As we all know, Coronavirus or COVID-19 was initially identified to have infected humans in China during mid-December of last year. From then on, this disease has continued to spread to every continent, and cases of the coronavirus have now been confirmed in several countries.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has now formally declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. This outbreak poses a significant challenge to health care systems for even the most developed countries.
Days prior to the confirmation of any COVID-19 cases in the Maldives, we started undertaking preventative and preparatory measures. An assessment was carried out in the first week of January to evaluate the magnitude of its risk to the Maldives, and other measures were taken to prepare ourselves for the possibility of an outbreak.
In light of the increasingly fast pace at which this virus continues to spread, global health experts are unable to accurately predict when it can be contained. It is for this reason that the Government continues to take effective measures in accordance with WHO guidance to safeguard our citizens and those residing in the Maldives.
The Government is undertaking preventative measures based on the availability of our services and resources, and with the advice of medical doctors in the Maldives. For the purpose of formulating a process to contain the spread of this disease, we have formulated risk assessments corresponding to different levels, which has been shared publicly.
Upon evaluation of the magnitude of the risk of this disease to the Maldives, and on the recommendation of the Director General of Public Health, and in accordance with the Public Health Protection Act, Minister of Health Abdulla Ameen has now declared a Public Health Emergency in the Maldives.
Maldives has confirmed 8 positive cases of COVID19. Comprehensive contact tracing in relation to these cases are being carried out by the relevant authorities. As a result of these 8 confirmed cases, health officials are monitoring people in 3 different resorts.
Medical teams carried out visits to these three resorts, where protective measures were undertaken and individuals identified through contact tracing and monitoring processes were isolated after further examination. Arrangements have also been made for tourists at these resorts who wish to depart, to return to their respective countries.
The most significant act to safeguard ourselves from this disease will be for us to exercise our civic responsibility. We must all take precautionary measures and practice high standards of personal hygiene as instructed by healthcare professionals.
I urge the Maldivian people to contact the hotline 1676 and report if you have any symptoms of this virus. It is equally important that the instructions and guidelines given to individuals who have been isolated are implemented fully. Competent authorities will continue to monitor these individuals to makes sure these guidelines are being adhered to.
Additionally, travel advisories have been issued for people travelling to countries most affected by this virus. Also, a temporary ban has been imposed on travelers from those countries to visit the Maldives.
This outbreak has caused significant disruption to the world economy. Maldives’ economy is also experiencing this disruption. Research from global financial institutions indicate that the Maldivian economy will be significantly affected.
Compared to last year, there has been a 22.8% decrease in tourist arrivals within the first 10 days of this month. Since the 26th January, 161,740 bed nights have been cancelled.
We previously estimated an 8% increase in tourist arrivals for this year. However, taking into consideration the percentage of booking cancellations, it is estimated now that the tourist arrival rate will drop between 12% and 35% compared to last year.
We estimated a 7.5% increase in GDP this year. However, with the economic disruption caused by COVID-19, we now expect the GDP growth rate to be between 0.5% and -5.6%.
It is estimated that due to this impact on the GDP, government revenue will decrease between MVR 2.1 billion and MVR 6.9 billion.
In spite of these obstacles, by the grace of Allah, the government will work to continue providing public services without any disruptions. Rest assured, that no island in the Maldives, God willing, will run out of staple foods. STO is ready and prepared for this purpose.
Arrangements are in place to provide pharmaceuticals throughout the Maldives without any disruption. Our close neighbour India has decided to provide supplies of medicines for 3 months and to send a professional team of doctors to the Maldives. Also, many other friendly countries have given us the green light to assist us in our responses against COVID-19.
Although COVID-19 poses a considerable challenge for us, most importantly, I would like to assure all Government employees that I do not intend to cut salaries.
The Government is currently working to continue, without disruption, all development projects in the Maldives. These development projects will progress as previously planned. However, the Government has now started to implement some measures to minimize state expenses,
Expenses outside the Government’s Public Sector Investment Program will be targeted for reduction. Additionally, expenses relative to Government travel and renovation of institutions will be decreased.
In addition, the central bank, MMA, is currently in discussion with other banks in the Maldives to help tackle any losses to businesses, specifically to Small and Medium Enterprise businesses. Moreover, efforts are underway to obtain foreign loans and grants. In this regard, we have received positive signals from friendly nations and other financial institutions.
COVID-19 is an epidemic that is spreading rapidly across the world. However, this is not the time for distress and apprehension. This is the time to work in unity, with wisdom and consideration, and under the guidance and instructions of health professionals. I strongly urge people to restrain from any public gatherings.
The Government needs the support of everyone in our effort to tackle this epidemic. We particularly require the support of our healthcare experts. In this regard, the two private hospitals in the Maldives, ADK and Tree Top Hospital, have given their assurance to provide us with their assistance.
On behalf of the Maldivian people, I express sincere gratitude to everyone working tirelessly day and night to prevent and mitigate the spread of this disease in our country. Among them, I specifically would like to highlight doctors and nurses of IGMH, Health Protection Agency, National Disaster Management Authority, Maldives Red Crescent, Maldives National Defence Force and the Maldives Police Service.
I would also like to note the role of Maldivian journalists in disseminating information to the public on COVID-19 and thank them in this regard. During this time, we must all prioritize sharing accurate and reliable information.
I would like to firmly assure the people of the Maldives that the Government will continue to inform to keep the public appraised of the COVID-19 situation in the Maldives and all the preventative measures that are being implemented.
In times of crisis, our key hope lies in our faith. It is for this reason that we must make it our highest priority to pray to Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala in protecting us from this serious illness.
My prayer is that the citizens of the Maldives and people residing here will be safeguarded from the risk of COVID-19 and be blessed with good health. I pray to Almighty Allah that this epidemic is eradicated from the world, peace and protection avail in the international community and pave the way to enrich our economy.
وَالسَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَاتُه