Photo Credit: Global Diaspora News (www.GlobalDiasporaNews.com).

Source of original article: Saffah Faroog / Global Voices (globalvoices.org).

Check out Global Voices’ special coverage of the global impact of COVID-19.

Covid-19 has upended life in the Maldives. In a March 25 press conference, President Solih announced that the country was in a state of lockdown and all on-arrival visas would be cancelled beginning 27 March 2020. He also extended the closure of government offices, schools, and universities until 5 April 2020.

On March 17, all government offices except emergency services, the courts, media, and financial institutions were ordered to close from March 19 to 26 to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. The president also stated that the country was fully prepared for a worst-case scenario by installing 200 ICU beds. However, as the country is dependent on income from tourism, netizens are questioning whether the Maldives can afford the lockdown.

Covid-19 in the Maldives:

The first cases were detected in two foreign nationals working at a tourist resort on March 7. Both of the cases were in contact with an Italian tourist who tested positive for the virus after returning to Italy. The number of infections has now risen to 13, of those eight have recovered.

As the global travel industry comes to a grinding halt, countries that are totally dependent on tourism are feeling the immense economic strain as tourist arrivals are reduced to a trickle. More than 50 resorts have already closed down temporarily due to the decline in tourists and they cut the salaries of workers.

The government declared a health emergency on March 12 for 30 days while the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has introduced sweeping measures including a ban on guesthouses on inhabited islands from accepting tourists. The HPA has banned workers in resorts from travelling to and from the resorts, and dine-in services in cafes and restaurants in the capital, Malé, were stopped.

Residents of Malé, a tiny island of less than 2 sq km where more than 150,000 people live, are being encouraged to stay indoors as much as possible.

Impact on the economy

Last year, the Maldives was visited by over 1.5 million tourists. The country set a target of 2 million tourists in 2020. However, COVID-19 is set to dash hopes of achieving this goal.

On 9 March 2020, the country imposed travel sanctions on China, Iran, Italy, parts of South Korea, Bangladesh and all cruise ships. On March 15 certain European countries were added to the list.

China and Italy, two of the most affected countries, are also the biggest markets for Maldives tourism. The tourism arrivals declined by 14.3 percent in February this year. In March, after the bans, it fell considerably more.

The blanket ban on tourists including cruise ships will hit the country’s economy and it will likely face a serious shortfall in foreign currency earnings.

Social media users are divided among those who view a complete lockdown as the only option to stop the virus from creating havoc while others believe that the country simply cannot afford a ban on foreign tourists and a complete lockdown.

Jenny Latheef views a complete lockdown as the solution:

Ali Hussain responds to Amhar who asks if a total lockdown can be afforded:

Isra questions the measure of confining workers, even those who are no longer employed, to resorts while tourists were allowed to arrive for holidays, till the latest decision not to issue on-arrival visa:

Umran tweets:

However, some workers in resorts such as Saaif Zaryr support the government’s move to confine workers:

Meanwhile, Faraz asks if the money generated by tourism benefits the people:

The Maldives is also using several resorts to quarantine suspected persons in separate islands near the capital Malé. As per the previous decision before lockdown, Maldives nationals arriving from abroad were being quarantined for 14 days in these designated places with the exception of tourists checking in to their pre-booked resorts.

The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of Global Diaspora News (www.GlobalDiasporaNews.com).

To submit your press release: (https://www.GlobalDiasporaNews.com/pr).

To advertise on Global Diaspora News: (www.GlobalDiasporaNews.com/ads).

Sign up to Global Diaspora News newsletter (https://www.GlobalDiasporaNews.com/newsletter/) to start receiving updates and opportunities directly in your email inbox for free.