COVID-19: Maldives Parliament meets online, discusses strategies

Govt. to support sectors like fishing that can ‘bounce back’

Updated - March 30, 2020 11:19 pm IST

Published - March 30, 2020 11:18 pm IST - Colombo

Mohamed Nasheed

Mohamed Nasheed

Determined to keep Parliament functional during the COVID-19 outbreak, Maldivian legislators on Monday convened online for a crucial session to discuss strategies to combat the pandemic.

As many as 71 of the 87-member House logged in on Monday using a web conferencing facility, appreciating the need for physical distancing. “Even though we are confined to our homes, our democracy is not under house arrest. The work of the Flag of Maldives People’s Majlis continues unimpeded, online,” Speaker and former President Mohamed Nasheed said in a tweet.

To help members get used to the software and iron out any technical issues, “a rehearsal of the online Parliament” was held on Saturday, according to officials in Male.

A notice on the session of Parliament — or People’s Majlis — with the agenda was sent to the MPs via text message in advance. The virtual session would “assist the Parliament of Maldives in conducting sessions remotely and continuing their workings swiftly until such time the state of emergency order is lifted,” a statement from the People’s Majlis Secretariat said.

Monday’s discussion centred on the Indian Ocean island nation’s response to COVID-19, according to the Speaker. Members’ interventions underlined the need for the Maldivian government to back only those businesses which will “bounce back”, like fishing and not the otherwise vital tourism sector that has taken a big hit due to the global pandemic.

“The sentiment was that the government must focus on a way out, into prosperity again,” Mr. Nasheed told The Hindu from Male via phone. “The MPs took to the online session like fish to water.”

The Maldives currently has two COVID-19 positive patients, who returned from the U.K., undergoing treatment. The 13 cases detected earlier this month have been cured, says government spokesman Mabrook Azeez.

However, 870 Maldivians, and foreigners working in the island, who returned after foreign travels have been quarantined for observation. “Ten resorts have been converted to quarantine centres,” Mr. Azeez said.

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