Parliamentary representative for the constituency of North Fuvahmulah Mohamed Rasheed, on Wednesday, submitted an amendment to the Public Health Act mandating the government to obtain parliamentary approval within 48 hours of declaring a state of public health emergency.
If the motion proposed by the lawmaker from Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) comes to pass, extensions to the state of public health emergency determined by the Director-General of Public Health, would henceforth be subject to approval from the legislative body.
The amendment also proposes that an audit report, detailing expenditure during the state of emergency, be compiled and presented to the president, the parliament and the auditor general.
According to the current provisions laid out in the Public Health Act, parliamentary clearance is not required when a state of public health emergency is declared by the Minister of Health.
However, approval from the parliament approval is deemed necessary if such a declaration is issued by the incumbent president.
- Rejecting a request to declare a state of public health emergency
- Extending a state of public health emergency by a maximum of 30 days
- Amending the request
- Partially or completely approving a request
The Public Health Act, which was implemented in 2012, accords the power to declare a state of public health emergency to the Director-General of Public Health, who also advises the Minister of Health on the areas to be designated as under emergency, as well as on the government's immediate response.
Some of the steps that could be taken under public health emergency includes:
- Holding vaccination programmes for certain groups of people as necessary
- Determining the distribution of vaccines, medicines and other related materials, based on the urgency of need by different groups of people
- Shutting down educational institutions and prohibiting public gatherings
- Providing assistance and resources to people in quarantine
- Imposing travel restrictions and bans, including via land, sea and air
Maldives declared its first-ever state of public health emergency on March 12 under Section 33 of the 7/2012 Public Health Act for a period of 30 days.
Announced in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the state of emergency was extended on three occasions with the latest extension scheduled to expire on June 29.