The Maldives began the year optimistically with its COVID situation well under control and the much-missed tourism industry back steadily on its feet.
Fast forward a few months, the Maldives is once again facing the harsh reality of the COVID-19 pandemic as the country readies for yet another wave of infection.
The recent surge in COVID cases began in the middle of Ramadan as the Health Protection Agency HPA reported daily COVID numbers above 100.
Now, the situation appears near out of control with HPA confirming more than 1000 cases in the last 48 hours across the country.
Yesterday itself 585 people have become positive making it a record of positive cases in one day. In its daily update, Health Protection Agency confirmed 397 new cases of the pandemic in the Greater Male' Area alone with another 160 new cases reported from inhabited islands. With this a total of 6,033 active cases of the pandemic has been found in the Maldives.
The sudden surge in cases have prompted authorities to implement tighter measures against the pandemic which includes closing down schools in the Greater Male Area as well as shutting down government offices for the next ten days as well as closing parks, turfs, running and swimming tracks.
With this being said the question is why is there a sudden surge in the cases all of a sudden? Is this due to a new variant or the behaviour of the public? Different opinion among the public is a given and blaming an authority or the government is in the nature of us humans which leads to the question who should be blamed for the rise in the cases is being debated among the public.
Half the public is blaming HPA for being lenient with the rules during the recent local council campaign. The other half blames the tourism industry for the rise of the cases due to allowing tourists arrive from various countries. The blame also is on the political parties which seem to not be concerned about the dangers of the virus while holding protests with crowds on the roads.
While some blame the tourism industry for allowing tourists to enter the Maldives, the tourism industry has taken the necessary precautions that have been set for them by making the tourists carry a negative PCR test of 92 hours and not allowing tourists to visit other islands and only be allowed on the destined resort.
Tourism Minister Mr. Abdullah Mausoom had said that they have been vigilant in taking the necessary precaution and has been successfully maintaining the guidelines and making sure that there are less cases in the field of the resorts.
Looking into HPA leniency, the agency was heavily pressurized by politicians to ease some of its successful measures against the pandemic to give way for campaigning ahead of the delayed election. The ease with which the HPA released its hold on the measures makes one question as to why the agency folded so easily despite the political and economical pressure. But ease it did and individuals eagerly traveled home to the islands to 'vote' despite the short periods given.
It's easier to get sucked into the blame game but a look inward is also needed. The winding queues outside the vaccination centers with people standing in big crowds without an ounce of social distancing speaks volumes itself. All mass gatherings and social events could have been avoided, could it have not?
Dr Mohamed Ali Physician at Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospitals National Centre for Respiratory Medicine tweeted on Monday that by looking at the statistics of other countries that we are having a surge of COVID-19 cases. He also urged in his tweet to stop mass gatherings and human interactions so that it will become easier to identify the cause of the surge. He further questioned that it may be due to human behaviour or a new variant.
The two points that Dr Mohamed Ali had questioned is very similar because new variant can be found when more people mingle together it is common knowledge. Cases will start spiking when there are more gatherings and contact between people as this is a contagious virus. The fact that this has been continuously repeated by the health officials and still some people do not follow these guidelines is one reason that there are more cases sprouting.
The fact is that currently the COVID-19 infection is rampant in the Maldives and especially in the Greater Male' Area. The best thing for the nation is to leave the blame game and unite to battle the never-tiring pandemic with all we got.
The country had banded together to defeat it three times now and the fourth time is still within our reach if only we heed the guidelines set by the authorities and experts.