Maldives to relocate workers from 23 high-risk accommodation blocks

Maldives to relocate workers from 23 high-risk accommodation blocks

National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) on late Saturday announced plans to relocate high-risk expatriate workers from 23 accommodation blocks as a measure to reduce the community spread of COVID-19.

Speaking at a virtual press conference held online by NEOC, Communications Undersecretary at the President's Office Mabrouq Abdul Azeez stated that workers from the 23 locations identified by the government would be relocated based on the severity of risk.

As per the announcement made by the Director-General of Public Health Maimoona Aboobakur on Saturday, an order was issued to place all high-risk workers in the Greater Male' region under quarantine, in facilities allocated by NEOC.

Under the quarantine order, all documented and undocumented immigrants who do not have accommodation, are living in addresses currently being monitored by Maldives Police Service, have come into direct or secondary contact with any identified COVID-19 cases, or have room to believe they were exposed to the virus in any way, will be placed under the preventive measures.

On April 21, relevant authorities launched monitoring operations centred around the living quarters of expatriate workers, having acknowledged that the congested nature of such zones placed these foreign nationals at a significantly higher risk of contracting the virus.

The disease has disproportionately affected the country's large expatriate population, the majority of whom are Bangladeshi nationals and live in highly congested quarters where it is impossible to reduce contact or exercise social distancing. Their often small-spaced living conditions have been described by local and international civil society organizations as, "claustrophobic", "unsanitary" and "overcrowded".

At the time of this announcement, 343 expatriate workers have tested positive for COVID-19. Maldives now records 519 confirmed, 499 active cases and a total of 17 recoveries. The country recorded its first virus death, an 83-year-old local female, last Wednesday.

Following the first confirmed local transmission on April 15, Malé has recorded a significant increase in COVID-19 cases. The city is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

In addition to the capital, COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Uligan in Haa Alif Atoll, Narudhoo and Milandhoo in Shaviyani Atoll, and Thulusdhoo in Kaafu Atoll.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The new strain of novel coronavirus has infected over 3.4 million people and claimed over 244,780 lives around the world. However, out of those infected, more than 1.1 million people have recovered.