Maldives spikes swine flu warning level as patient toll nearly doubles in 12 hours

Representative image. (Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons) Photograph:( Others )

WION Mal?, Male, Maldives Mar 14, 2017, 02.25 PM (IST) Umaima Rasheed Hussain

Maldives has been gripped with swine flu, with the country's health agency issuing nationwide alert late Monday.

The country's Health Protection Agency (HPA) escalated the alert measure -- Level 3 -- after people infected with the virus nearly doubled from 27 to 51 in just 12 hours on Monday.

In an emergency joint press conference held late Monday, by the HPA, the Health Ministry and the Education Ministry, authorities revealed that of the 251 suspected cases, 51 had tested positive.

A man in his twenties died of the illness on March 4, while a pregnant woman remains in critical condition, the media learnt during the press conference.

The majority of the sufferers were Maldivians, though there are a few foreigners who have been screened as well.

According to the authorities, the number of people who tested positive for the virus this year is higher than the previous two years combined.

HPA warned that the disease is still increasing and there are 70 more samples to be tested, which could increase the number of H1N1 patients. 

Schools and colleges closed

The government has also asked schools and colleges to remain shut due to the outbreak.

"Schools across the country will be closed for the next three days," the education ministry said. 

And since schools will shut down for the mid-term break the following week, the authorities will discuss with HPA whether to reopen schools after the break. If necessary, if the outbreak is not contained, schools may remain shut for a longer period.

Colleges will also remain closed for the next one week.

The Maldives National University graduation ceremony scheduled for next week has also been postponed.

Meanwhile, several inter-school sports tournaments have also been postponed.

Domestic travel advisory

The ministry of health has issued a travel advisory, asking the general public not to travel unless absolutely necessary, as it could help the virus to proliferate.

The domestic travel advisory was issued after the government's decision to close schools across the country. 

Task force member Dr Abdulla Niyaf advised against any unnecessary travel during the upcoming school holiday.

"The school break opens the door for the spread of the disease, as many people from the islands visit Male for various purposes. So we advice against making any unnecessary travel as that would help us curb the spread from Male to the islands," he said. 

Protocols in place

The country's minister of health Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim told WION: "The government authorities are liaising with World Health Organisation (WHO) and necessary steps are being taken." 

"We have the necessary medicines, we still have precaution vaccines. we are giving the vaccines as necessary," he said.

The general public has raised concerns about lack of information provided by the authorities.

But the health minister said the government was keeping the public up-to-date about the virus toll.

The minister also advised people to avoid public gatherings. 

With the recent outbreak of cold and flu, Maldives has established flu clinics in several hospitals to hel counter the problem.