President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Friday, pledged to donate USD 200,000 to the 'South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Emergency Relief Fund' initiated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Participating in a video conference with the leaders of SAARC countries to discuss the South Asian Regional response to COVID-19 last Sunday, the president, along with other participants, welcomed suggestions by Prime Minister Modi who initiated the SAARC video conference.
PM Modi at the time, proposed to form a designated COVID-19 fund with contributions from all SAARC member states, with India to make an initial contribution of USD 10 million, as well as a regional relief package for South Area and to devise a long-term recovery strategy.
SAARC leaders that participated in the video conference included Afghan President shraf Ghani, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Nepali Prime Minister Sharma Oli, Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, and Pakistani state minister of health Dr Zafar Mirza.
President Solih declared that Maldives was posed to lose between USD 135.9 million (MVR 2.5 billion) and USD 446.6 million (MVR 6.9 billion) in state revenue this year due to repercussions on the tourism sector.
He stated that the number of tourists began to decline several weeks prior to the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Maldives. He noted that the hospitality industry contributed to two-thirds of the country's GDP and impacted all areas of the Maldivian economy.
Moreover, the President said visitor arrivals dropped by 14.3 percent in February and 22.8 percent during the first 10 days of March, compared to the same periods last year, voicing concerns that if the decline persists at the current rate, Maldives could experience a 35 percent drop by the end of 2020.
Maldives currently has 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and recorded its first recovery on Friday. No locals have tested positive for the virus as of yet. So far, only tourists and resort employees have confirmed infections.
The World Health Organization has classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The novel coronavirus has infected more than 276,000 and claimed over 11,400 lives around the world. However, out of those infected, more than 91,900 have recovered.