Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid on Sunday held discussions with his Bangladeshi counterpart, AK Abdul Momen, over the situation of Maldivians stranded in Bangladesh amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
He stated via a Tweet that the main focus of the discussion was to explore possible avenues for the repatriation of Maldivians.
The Maldivian government on March 9 announced the decision to halt all direct flights and transit flights from Bangladesh following confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the country.
A total of 41 Maldivians were in Bangaladesh when their government locked the country down on March 26 due to the pandemic. Most of the stranded Maldivians are medical students in Chittagong and capital Dhaka.
However, Bangladesh is permitting chartered flights to evacuate foreign individuals from the country. Japan and the United States have already evacuated their nationals.
The Foreign Ministry previously stated that the hold-up in bringing back Maldivians in Bangladesh was due to delay in the Bangladeshi government issuing certain permits required to carry out the evacuation.
The national airline, Maldivian, has already facilitated the repatriation of 100 Maldivians stranded in neighbouring Colombo, Sri Lanka as well as 188 from Cochin, India on April 6 and April 7 respectively. A further 197 Maldivians stranded in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia were evacuated on April 8.
Additionally, the government has facilitated care package deliveries for locals stranded in Sri Lanka, Malaysia and India, and has plans to similarly aid Maldivians in Bangkok, Thailand, via a cargo flight scheduled for April 16.
Students and doctors who remained in Bangladesh have been raising concerns over the situation in the country. As per some, they initially stayed back as it was deemed safer to remain without travelling. However, now that scheduled flights to the country from Maldives are restricted, they are unable to return.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Bangladesh reported the highest number of coronavirus cases in a day, after 139 more people tested positive. This raised the country's total cases to 621, with 39 recoveries and 34 deaths.
Five Maldivians remain positive for COVID-19 in the country, while another Maldivian residing abroad in the UK has tested positive. No local to local transmissions have been recorded till date.
Maldives now has 20 confirmed and six active cases of COVID-19, with a total of 14 recoveries.
The World Health Organization has classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The novel coronavirus has infected over 1.85 million people and claimed over 114,200 lives around the world. However, out of those infected, more than 427,800 people have recovered.