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Maldives imposes strict curbs as COVID-19 cases spike

MALE (Reuters) – The Maldives will restrict movement from Wednesday to curb a surge in coronavirus infections that is putting pressure on the island’s healthcare facilities, officials said.

People will be allowed out for a few hours each day for essential supplies and a strict curfew will be in place from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. (0300 GMT) the next day, the Health Protection Agency said.

The restrictions come as the Indian Ocean island has seen a rise in cases and is struggling with a shortage of medical staff, many of whom come from India which is battling its own deadly wave of infections.

“Especially due to the situation in India, which is traditionally the biggest source country, we are finding it difficult to hire new medical professionals to deal with the increased caseload,” Mabrook Azeez, the spokesman for the President’s Office told Reuters.

The Maldives reported 1,004 fresh cases on Tuesday with a tally of 58,345 total infections, according to the health agency, with cases concentrated in the capital Male.

Last week, daily cases hit a record 2,194, setting off alarm in the tropical island chain with a population of a little over half a million.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said the country had erred in lifting curbs on public movement.

“The easing of restrictions in April was not right. I don’t think those decisions were good enough. However, I am not going to put that responsibility on anyone,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

The country held local council elections in April during which public meetings were held. Family gatherings and congregation alto took place in mosques during the holy month of Ramadan.

Seventy-one people have died due to COVID-19 complications in May so far, accounting for nearly half of all COVID-19 deaths in the country since the beginning of the pandemic, data shows.

The tropical island chain is traditionally known for its luxury beach resorts.

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