The Attorney General's (AG) Office submitted the 'Public Health Emergency Bill' to parliament on Friday.
According to the AG Office, the legislation was proposed to ensure protection for "individuals, families and businesses" amid the state of public health emergency enacted over Maldives' COVID-19 outbreak.
It includes amendments to current regulations and procedures to assure that such crises do not impede on government operations and critical services.
The draft bill includes clauses on:
- Housing: Property owners will be barred from sudden evictions of tenants that are unable to pay rent as a result of financial repercussions. Moreover, the bill stated that landlords must issue a two-month notice prior to eviction, adding that utility services must not be suspended during said time.
- Disproportionately affected individuals: Homeless and displaced persons must be provided state-sponsored shelter during the crisis. Furthermore, the bill stipulates the government to provide food for those unable to do feed themselves.
- Employment: The bill noted that employers must grant special leave to employees. The draft also includes clauses that grant employees with the authority to reduce wages, provide no-pay leave and terminate staff based on the fiscal feasibility of the company.
In its conclusion, the bill suggests special provisions on taxations and provides a legal framework for courts and tribunals to accept audio and video documents to proceed with cases.
As with most parts of the world, living circumstances for numerous Maldivians are in decline, particularly affecting those based in the capital Male', as a result of the ongoing health crisis.
In order to assist those negatively affected, the government introduced the 'Income Support Allowance' as a relief scheme for individuals experiencing financial difficulties, which grants allowances of up to MVR 5000 to eligible individuals.
However, reports of people being forced out of their homes over not being able to pay rent, not having access to loan applications or legal aid, being unfairly dismissed from work, having to abandon their lives in the capital city and so forth, continue to rise.
Earlier in April, the World Bank predicted Maldives will be South Asia's worst-hit country, in the economic regression brought on by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Maldives presently records 1,672 confirmed and 1,259 active cases of COVID-19, with five fatalities and 406 recoveries.
WHO has classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The new strain of novel coronavirus has infected over 6.1 million people and claimed over 371,007 lives around the world. However, out of those infected, 2.7 million people have recovered.