Russia's national airline Aeroflot announced that the airline will henceforth, only be catering to Russian nationals as a safety measure amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic, until the issue is resolved.
The announcement was made after an Aeroflot plane, carrying two Italian passengers that were confirmed positive for COVID-19 after departure from Maldives, were quarantined at capital city Moscow.
The two Italians were amongst 16 tourists quarantined at the facility in Vilivaru along with an additional 16 local staff members, after two suspected cases holidaying on the Island Safari liveaboard tested positive for COVID-19.
Speaking at National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC)'s press conference held on Saturday night, Health Protection Agency (HPA)'s Director General Maimoona Aboobakr stated that the airline and the flight destination were immediately notified upon receiving the test results.
She further noted the incident as being "one to learn from".
Announcing the test results on Saturday afternoon, Minister of Health Abdulla Ameen noted that all high-risk cases leaving quarantine are now being tested prior to their departure, for research purposes.
President's Office's Communications Undersecretary Mabrouq Abdul Azeez clarified that the tourists were allowed to depart on the Aeroflot plane as they had completed the 14-day quarantine period, although their samples were being tested at Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) at the time.
A total of 385 passengers from different nationalities were on board the Aeroflot plan when it departed Maldives. The plane is currently grounded at Moscow airport.
Authorities are under heavy fire by the public for releasing suspect cases from quarantine prior to receiving their final test results. Some repeatedly noted that this decision endangers all the passengers aboard the airline.
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.
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, 103 people and claimed over 30,883 lives around the world. However, out of those infected, more than 142, 361 people have recovered.