Maldives National Association of Construction Industry (MNACI) on Sunday, announced the release of its revamped guidelines to combat COVID-19 in construction sites, amid the ongoing community spread of the virus in the country.
The guidelines were formulated as an addendum to the association's handbook on 'Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) in the Maldives Construction Industry', which was initially released in 2010.
Speaking at a video conference, MNACI President Mohamed Ali Janah stated that guidelines were strengthened with the intent of helping construction sites adhere to best practices in mitigating and preventing the risks of COVID-19.
Under the addendum, MNACI incorporated preventive and mitigative measures across three stages of construction;
- Prior to Site Opening
- On-Site Measures
- Off-Site Measures
As per MNACI, all construction sites must formulate an Emergency Response Plan for COVID-19 (ERP-C19) to be followed in the event where a worker is compromised.
Moreover, the association mandates all sites to appoint a Site Safety and Health Representative (SSHR) to ensure that the (ERP-C19) is adhered to. MNACI will conduct training programmes for representatives during the week.
MNACI also dictates that workers on-site must wear protective masks at all times. While gloves are not mandatory, the organization urges employees to practice hand hygiene and don gloves when possible.
The association also requires temperature screening of all employees every six hours, and to practice social distancing between workers when possible.
"These prevention and risk-mitigating measures would mean there will probably be more documentation and restrictions. Work will be slower. However, work will continue, even with slow progress".
"More importantly, work will be safer", said MNACI.
According to a study conducted by MNACI, the construction industry is estimated to lose at least MVR 617 million in three months, as a result of the pandemic.
It also revealed that contractors are struggling to pay rent and staff salaries. While noting the termination of certain employees, MNACI identified reduced wages amongst the workforce as well.
In addition to the locals, the construction industry employs the largest expatriate workforce in the country. MNACI estimates that the industry employs roughly 7000 locals and 50,000 expatriates.
Over 380 construction companies hold membership to MNACI.
The COVID-19 outbreak in the capital has disproportionately affected the expatriate population, the majority of whom are Bangladeshi nationals living in highly congested quarters where it is impossible to reduce contact or exercise social distancing. Their often small-spaced living conditions have been described by local and international civil society organizations as, "claustrophobic", "unsanitary" and "overcrowded".
Director-General of Public Health Maimoona Aboobakur previously issued an order to place all high-risk workers in the Greater Male' region under quarantine, in facilities allocated by NEOC.
Under the quarantine order, all documented and undocumented immigrants who do not have accommodation, are living in addresses currently being monitored by the Maldives Police Service, have come into direct or secondary contact with any identified COVID-19 cases, or have room to believe they were exposed to the virus in any way, will be placed under the preventive measures.
Following the first confirmed local transmission on April 15, Malé has recorded a significant increase in COVID-19 cases. The city is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.
At the time of this announcement, over 550 expatriate workers have tested positive for COVID-19. Maldives presently records 862 confirmed cases, 828 active and a total of 29 recoveries.
The country recorded its first virus death, of an 83-year-old local female, on April 29. The second death involved the passing of a 33-year-old male Bangladeshi national, following a tonic-clonic seizure, who afterwards tested positive for COVID-19.
On March 12, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The one strain of novel coronavirus has infected over 4.2 million people and claimed over 284,799 lives around the world. However, out of those infected, 1.5 million people have recovered.