President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has delivered a press conference at the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) at Dharubaaruge this evening to brief the public on the Administration’s ongoing measures to contain COVID-19. He highlighted that the Government’s measures in this regard are based upon the recommendation of health experts, whose advice he urged the public to heed, especially pertaining to staying at home to limit the risk of the virus’s further spread. The President noted that of the thirteen positive COVID-19 cases in the Maldives (all of whom are foreign nationals) eight have now made a full recovery, and that the remaining five are in good condition. Despite this, he added, now is not the time to lower caution.
The President announced that the present closure of government offices, schools, colleges and universities will be extended for a further week. Moreover, the President also announced that as a further precaution, the Maldives will temporarily halt providing on-arrival visas from 27th March 2020 onwards. He also stated that resort staff may leave their workplaces and return home 14 days after the last tourist leaves the island.
Acknowledging the impact that the current global pandemic is having on the Maldivian economy, the President shed light on the measures the government will be taking to mitigate and recover from the fall out. In this regard the Government will: inject a stimulus package worth 2.5 billion Maldivian Rufiyaa into the Maldivian economy; modify the Bank of Maldives (BML) loan repayment structure, citing a moratorium of 6 months on all loan repayments and extension of repayments terms amongst several other waivers; and provide financial assistance to businesses through loan schemes from SDFC and BML. Moreover the President also announced the allowance of 6 months deferrals for those who have to pay back their student loans and further emphasized that the current student loan program will continue as planned. He also announced a 6 month moratorium on repayment of housing loans under the Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC).
The President reiterated the Government’s earlier pledge to subsidize 40% from household electricity bills and 30% from household water bills for the months of April and May, adding that the relevant authorities are also working to find ways to subsidize internet services. Addressing people’s concerns regarding food security, the President stated the government is closely monitoring staple food stock and stated that the State Trading Organisation (STO) is currently working on stockpiling essential food items, including 10-months’ worth of rice and sugar, and 5-months’ worth of flour by mid-April. In anticipation of the holy month of Ramadan, the President also stated that the government is working to create a platform to enable the sale and transport of locally farmed products through STO.
Expressing his gratitude to the financial assistance being given to the Maldives during these trying times by the international community, President Solih extended his appreciation to institutions such as the World Bank, which has recently approved a grant to the Maldives worth 10 Million USD. The President also thanked the many parties whose help has been essential to the government’s efforts to combat COVID-19 in the Maldives, including the NEOC, reporters, volunteers, and especially healthcare professionals. Following the conclusion of his statement the President answered questions from journalists present.