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Govt facilitates aid from families to Maldivians stranded in Sri Lanka

30 March 2020, MVT 22:05
Commuters drive along a road during a public holiday declared by the Sri Lankan government to avoid gatherings as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Colombo on March 19, 2020. (Photo by Ishara S. KODIKARA / AFP)
30 March 2020, MVT 22:05

The Maldivian government, on Monday, confirmed its decision to facilitate a means of sending aid to Maldivians stranded in Sri Lanka, from their families in Maldives.

In a tweet sent out by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Sahid, he confirmed that the government will charter a cargo flight to carry care- packages to Sri Lanka's capital city, Colombo.

Replying to his first tweet, the minister clarified that further details would be announced on Tuesday, following a logistical consultation among the inter agency teams.

Speaking at the press conference held daily over the global COVID-19 pandemic at the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) on Monday, Communications Undersecretary at the President's Office Mabrouq Abdul Azeez added further details to the minister's statement.

According to Mabrouq, the flight was scheduled under the directive of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to ease the plight of Maldivians based in Sri Lanka, by sending provisions that may offer comfort. He also stated that the cargo flight, chartered to import food to Maldives, is set to arrive on Sunday and arrangements have been made for it to carry care packages back to Colombo.

In response to multiple inquiries from Maldivians wishing to return home despite Sri Lanka's current lockdown and curfews, the Maldivian government previously stated that it was 'in talks' with diplomatic missions over the possibility of arranging transfers.

In the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic and resultant halts in air travel across many regions, Maldivians are reportedly stranded not only in Sri Lanka but all over the globe, evidenced by the number of citizens reaching out from countries such as Nepal, India, Philippines, the UK and more.

Further, a large number of student populations are recorded in travel-restricted countries such as Malaysia and the United Kingdom (UK).

However reduce the risk of importing COVID-19 into the country, as has happened elsewhere in the world, authorities have recommended that students avoid all non-essential travel.

Addressing the press at the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) as the panel's representative from the medical community, Dr Ahmed Shaheed urged Maldivians abroad to refrain from returning to the country unless absolutely necessary. Nearly all countries have extended visas and facilitate means to allow those stranded to safely reside where they are at present.

Health experts and travel consultants around the world have also echoed the sentiment, 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.

Following the new recoveries, Maldives currently has four active cases which consist of two Maldivians quarantined after returning from the United Kingdom (UK) and two Italians that tested positive after departing from the country.

The World Health Organization has classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The novel coronavirus has infected over 734,990 people and claimed over 34,780 lives around the world. However, out of those infected, more than 155,965 people have recovered.

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