Lawmaker questions whether state of public health emergency is needed

Hoarafushi MP Ahmed Saleem. (File Photo/People's Majlis)

Hoarafushi MP Ahmed Saleem has questioned whether the Maldives is actually in a state which still requires a declaration of a public health emergency. 

The MP was speaking in the parliament today when he said that the country had spent nearly a year in a state of public health emergency while speaking on an emergency issue submitted to the parliament by him, to mitigate the damage caused on cafes and restaurants due to COVID-19 measures. 

MP Saleem submitted an emergency motion calling to provide compensation for cafes and restaurant businesses whose income was adversely affected in light of COVID-19 measures

MP Saleem said that the constantly renewed state of public health emergency in the nation was inflicting a lot of damage on cafes and restaurant businesses. The damage was so severe that businesses were on the brink of bankruptcy and unsure whether they can ever recover, said MP Saleem. 

He also said that most of the public were reliant on these businesses for food and that the public would also go out for businesses if these establishments were open, which meant that the entire economy was facing difficulties due to the measures implemented in light of COVID-19 which were stopping such businesses and their operations. 

Hoarafushi MP Ahmed Saleem.

The MP called on the authorities to take swift mitigative actions to reduce the impact on such businesses due to the state of public health emergency measures. 

He called to do this by providing compensation, easing of rent and lease payments to the government, ensuring the steady supply of electricity and water without any interruptions for a specific time period, ease of GST payments, negate any discrimination between different types of businesses.and allow such businesses to operate in line with HPA guidelines.

MP Saleem admitted that COVID-19 was a dangerous disease and that all measures to stay safe from the virus must be undertaken. 

"However, even if things are like this, I don't believe that we should leave these businesses, who rely on the measures, to go bankrupt by maintaining the state of public health emergency after almost a year of the pandemic, by still viewing it as an emergency situation," said MP Saleem.

The MP also questioned the purpose of closing down restaurants and cafes earlier and allowing shops to remain open, before also noting that people gather while on foot as well. 

That is not just, there is no scientific evidence that shows that the closure of cafes and restaurants at a specific time reduces COVID-19 mortality rates or the spread of the virus," said MP Saleem.

Authorities in the Maldives, yesterday permitted cafes and restaurants to be kept open until 22:30, amending an earlier order for such establishments to be closed by 20:00. However, unions representing such an establishment have called to extend the hours to 01:30 in the morning. Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed has also called to release all measures on cafes and restaurants.