Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2019 13:10:25 +0100

Colombo, Jan 22, 2019 (AFP) - Five tourists including a honeymooning couple have drowned in a single week in the Maldives, officials said, prompting a nationwide safety warning to holiday resorts in the pristine islands.   Tourism officials said all resort operators in the paradise archipelago were urged Monday to keep a close eye on their clients after the spate of deaths.

Strong currents caused by a north-east monsoon were blamed for the slew of drownings in the idyllic atoll nation, where such accidents are usually few and far between.   Around 1.4 million tourists visit the Maldives every year but the latest government data shows just 31 people drowned in 2017.

On January 13, two Filipino newlyweds were swept to their deaths by a powerful undertow.   The man got into trouble and his wife went to his aid, but both perished. Their bodies were recovered and repatriated to the Philippines, officials said.    An 84-year-old Czech tourist and a 66-year-old South Korean woman died within two days of each other at a resort near the capital Male while snorkelling.   A Russian woman on a dive trip was the latest casualty on Sunday.

A Pakistani holidaymaker came close to death but was plucked to safety and taken to hospital.   The tourism ministry was in the process of identifying safe zones for ocean swimming and diving after the spike in drownings, officials said.   The Maldives relies on tourism and visitors come for the turquoise waters and white sand beaches of the islands scattered some 800 kilometres (500 miles) across the equator.
Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2018 12:52:15 +0200

Colombo, Sept 24, 2018 (AFP) - The Indian Ocean island nation of the Maldives is famed as an upmarket tourist destination of white beaches and turquoise waters but is threatened by rising sea levels and endured stifling political control.   After the surprise election win of opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in weekend elections, here is some background about the Muslim nation.

- Indian Ocean paradise -
The country is a collection of 1,192 tiny islands scattered 800 kilometres (550 miles) across the equator.   Only 200 islands are inhabited with the country's population put at 340,000 in the last census in 2014.   Tourism is the principal income earner, providing 41 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016 and nearly 20 percent of jobs, the World Travel and Tourism Council says.    The archipelago's beauty drew nearly 1.4 million foreign visitors in 2017, with the destination especially prized among honeymooners.

- Politically tense -
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom ruled with an iron fist for 30 years until 2008 when he lost the first-ever multi-party poll to human rights activist Mohamed Nasheed.   Nasheed was forced to resign in 2012 after a police mutiny and demonstrations that he said were part of a coup plot.

In disputed elections the following year, he was defeated by Gayoom's half brother, Abdulla Yameen, a strongman president who was defeated in elections Sunday.    Yameen, whose regime has been bankrolled by China in a departure from the country's traditional alliance with India, imprisoned or forced into exile all his main rivals while curtailing press freedom and social networks.    Nasheed, who became an opposition leader, was jailed in 2015 on a terrorism charge widely criticised as politically motivated.

The following year he was granted prison leave for medical treatment in London, where he secured political asylum with the help of high-profile human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.   In February this year judges ordered the release of jailed opponents of Yameen, who hit back with a 45-day state of emergency, suspending the constitution and arresting the Chief Justice and another judge of the Supreme Court.   His aged half-brother Gayoom was also jailed for allegedly conspiring with the Supreme Court to topple him.

- Threatened by rising seas -
Eighty percent of the Maldives is less than a metre above sea level, making it one of the countries most threatened by rising sea levels linked to climate warming.   In 2009 Nasheed held a cabinet meeting underwater to raise awareness of the risk, also warning his people could become climate refugees.

- Buddhist turned Muslim -
Situated along Indian Ocean trading routes and about 650 kilometres southwest of Sri Lanka, the Maldives has been colonised several times.    Once a Buddhist kingdom, it converted to Islam around the 12th century.    Portuguese explorers occupied the main island of Mahe in the 16th century. The territory then became protectorates of the Dutch and the British before complete independence in 1965.    Sunni Islam today remains the state religion, all other religions being
banned.

The Maldives follows a moderate version of Islam while banning alcohol, except in tourist hotels, and homosexuality.    It also flogs women found guilty of "fornication", says Amnesty International, which is critical of a human rights situation that it says includes restrictions on peaceful protests and expression.   The Maldives left the Commonwealth in 2016 in a row over criticism of its rights record.   There are fears of radicalisation with the arrival of Middle East preachers and via radical websites.
Date: Thu, 19 Jul 2018 11:44:45 +0200

Colombo, July 19, 2018 (AFP) - Foreigners are flocking to the Maldives in ever-greater numbers despite an outcry abroad over the strongman president's crackdown on political dissent and the locking up of opponents, official figures showed.   The number of tourists visiting the white-sanded Indian Ocean archipelago soared 10 percent year-on-year to 726,515 in the first half of 2018, according to tourism ministry data released Wednesday.

President Abdulla Yameen imposed a 45-day state of emergency in February to fend off impeachment after the top court ruled that nine rebel MPs sacked by Yameen be reinstated.   The chief justice and another Supreme Court judge were then arrested along with Yameen's half-brother, a former strongman leader who ruled for 30 years until 2008. Elections are set for September 23.   Washington and others have expressed deep concern and the European Union warned on Monday that it could impose sanctions on key figures if the situation does not improve.   With its pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters, tourism is the mainstay of the Maldives economy, accounting for a quarter of the country's output.

Nearly 1.39 million tourists visited the Maldives, a nation of 1,192 tiny coral islands scatted across the equator, last year, up eight percent compared to 2016.   Official figures show that tourists spent $2.73 billion in 2016, up from $2.56 billion in the previous year. There were no immediate figures since 2016.   The main political opposition said arrivals increased partly because of lower prices offered by mid-range guest houses while occupancy in high-end resorts had suffered.   "Luxury resorts are not doing well, but guest houses are attracting visitors thanks to their affordable prices," Maldivian Democratic Party spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told AFP.
Date: Mon 28 May 2018 20:54
Source: Raajje [edited]
<https://raajje.mv/en/news/33560>

Health Protection Agency (HPA) has said that there have been 6669 reported cases of influenza and fever last week [week of Sun 20 May 2018].

In a press release on [Mon 28 May 2018], HPA said that the most number of weekly reports in May [2018] was 14,300.

Out of the samples HPA has taken, 69 percent of people were positive for influenza A and statistics show that the influenza A virus subtype H3N2 is currently the most common sort. An elderly person died last week [week of Sun 20 May 2018].after being infected with influenza.

Reports of dengue infections have dropped in the past 2 weeks with 96 reports in the last week.

HPA said it is working to control the spread of infection by disclosing information on treatment methods at health centres, checking if the necessary equipment exits in the centres, and spreading awareness to the public through the media.  [Byline: HumaamAli]
====================
[A map of Maldives: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/143>]
Date: Tue, 6 Feb 2018 09:11:42 +0100

Malé, Maldives, Feb 6, 2018 (AFP) - The Maldives on Tuesday sought to reassure tourists they would be safe as governments warned their citizens to steer clear of the troubled honeymoon islands amid a spiralling political crisis.

India and China advised their holidaymakers against visiting the tropical archipelago after a state of emergency was declared by the regime of embattled President Abdulla Yameen.   Tourism is a key earner for the Maldives but a dramatic confrontation between Yameen and the security forces against the Supreme Court has further eroded its reputation as an idyllic atoll nation.

Government spokesman Ibrahim Hussain Shihab said no curfew had been declared and the safety of tourists in the upmarket holiday paradise was assured.   The government would "facilitate calm at a time of national difficulty", he added.   But China -- the number-one source of tourists for the Maldives -- has urged its citizens against visiting the Indian Ocean nation.

The warning from China's foreign ministry comes ahead of the "Spring Festival" -- the peak period for Chinese tourists to visit the Maldives.    "Given the security situation there, we advise the Chinese tourists who are now in the Maldives to closely follow the security situation and enhance self-protection," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular briefing.   "In the meanwhile, Chinese citizens are advised to avoid going to the Maldives until the situation on the ground is stabilised."

India and France and other European nations also advised its citizens against non-essential travel.   The United States advised caution, warning of further protests in coming days across the capital Male "in response to emerging political developments".   "You should avoid areas of demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations," the US embassy in Colombo said in its updated travel advice on Tuesday.

In the latest escalation of the crisis, police clashed with opposition supporters outside the Supreme Court as troops stormed the building to arrest the chief justice and another judge at dawn Tuesday.   Hours earlier, they had arrested the country's former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom after accusing him of orchestrating attempts to topple his estranged half brother Yameen.   President Yameen has refused to comply with a court order to release political prisoners, despite growing international pressure and concern.

Political turbulence under Yameen -- who was elected in a controversial run-off in 2013 -- has dented the Maldives' image as an island paradise, but most tourists are insulated from the turmoil in Male.   The airport is a short boat journey from the capital and many visitors are whisked away to resorts on remote, serene islands spread 800 kilometres (550 miles) across the equator.   Nearly 1.4 million foreigners visiting the Maldives last year, up from 1.28 million the previous year.
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