Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday, stated that measures were in place to closely monitor the circumstances surrounding Maldivian students stranded in foreign nations, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and provide aid where necessary.
Many students studying across various countries have expressed concern over border closures, which effectively leaving them shut-off from home.
With regard to Maldivians living aboard, a large number of student populations exist in travel-restricted countries such as Malaysia and the United Kingdom (UK). To reduce the risk of importing COVID-19 into the country, as has happened elsewhere in the world, authorities recommend students to avoid all non-essential travel.
Minister Shahid stated that although students are facing many challenges, it is impossible to facilitate the return of every student based abroad. As it stands, 17 students in Nepal are currently awaiting return transfers organized by the government. However, it is not clear whether these transfers are of medical students volunteering to aid in the crisis or other students.
Speaking at the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC), Dr Ahmed Shaheed urged Maldivians abroad to refrain from returning to the country unless it was absolutely necessary. Nearly all countries have extended visas and facilitate means to allow students to safely reside where they are at present.
Health experts and travel consultants around the world have also echoed the same sentiments, advising people to halt any travel plans between countries at this time, including returning to one's home country.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) and other medical experts, a healthy person is still likely to contract the disease during travel, at the country of travel origin or even at the airport, as exposure to other individuals would be higher.
Communications Director at the Foreign Ministry Mohamed Miuvan, affirmed that the ministry's special task force, formed to oversee daily operations and explore possibilities of aid in relation to the students, "meets without fail on a daily basis".
On March 27, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) confirmed a second Maldivian tested positive for the virus, an individual that returned from UK and was placed in quarantine at Royal Island. The first Maldivian was found positive on March 27, a 38-year-old man that had also returned to the country from the UK.
With this new development, Maldives now has 17 confirmed and six active cases of COVID-19, with a total of 11 recoveries. While there are two confirmed cases of Maldivians, no local to local transmissions are recorded.
Speaking to the press on Friday, Minister of Health Abdulla Ameen stated that the situation has not reached 'community spread' stage; the infection is not considered to be spreading among the Maldivian community.
Nevertheless, the minister added that authorities are working under the assumption that the virus may be present within the community and urged the citizens to obey the current safety measures put in place by the government.
Currently, 20 people are placed in isolation facilities, while 824 are in quarantine facilities. As a preventative measure, HPA has ordered authorities to halt on-arrival visas from March 27 onwards. Furthermore, all inbound locals or visa holders will be placed under observation at a designated facility for a period of 14 days.
The World Health Organization has classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The novel coronavirus has infected over 664, 000 people and claimed over 30,800 lives around the world. However, out of those infected, more than 142, 000 people have recovered.