The Maldives reported its first case of COVID-19 on 7th March 2020, and thereafter declared a State of Public Health Emergency on 12th March 2020, banning all international travel. The atmosphere was tense at the time, but we thought we had escaped the worst of it as we had stopped the spread before it had reached the Capital Island, Malé City (home to a third of the population) or any of the inhabited islands yet. The geography of the Maldives makes the spread of the virus unique, in that each island acts as its own separate bubble. The first few people to test positive were tourists in the resorts (each resort being its own island). As long as the virus hadn’t reached Malé where most of us lived, then we were safe, we thought.
Unfortunately, the bubble burst about a month later on April 15, when the first person tested positive in Malé. I remember it quite vividly, as “Malé City Patient 0” was in fact one of our neighbours. I woke up that day around 10:30 am, and I noticed that there was a bit of a commotion in the kitchen. Mother was poking her head out of the kitchen window whilst on the phone, talking in a rather tense voice. I jokingly asked her if someone had tested positive, a joke I used now and then that had already become stale at this point. She didn’t answer me, so I went to the kitchen and looked out the window to see an ambulance in front of our neighbour’s house, and noticed that there was police tape quarantining the area. The punchline to my joke this time was apparently “yes”.
It was rather hectic that day, with a full lockdown going into immediate effect later that afternoon. Grocery stores were filled to the brim at the last moment with people panic buying. The days thereafter were a stark contrast to that last day, where the once hectic sounds of traffic and people walking the streets were instead replaced with an eerie silence that stretched for weeks. I was unemployed at the time, so the days were especially long and empty. However, I’d like to think I eventually made good use of all the free time indoors, picking up a hobby; baking. Brown Butter Miso Cookies were my specialty, much to the delight of my family.
Most of us managed to find creative ways to spend the time once the chaos settled. My mother, ever the artist, decided to spend the time painting a lovely mural of flowers by the beach on our stairwell. My cousins, in contrast to my food hobby, got into fitness by turning the indoor portion of our terrace into a home gym. My uncle turned the outdoor portion of our terrace into a beautiful veranda, a place for all of us to gather together for tea in the evenings.
Lockdown eventually ended sometime in mid-July, I got a job in a law firm shortly after and that is where I work now and it seems as if life has gone back to a sort of normal. As I write this, we have entered our second lockdown, but as cases climb back down, just like last time, I’m sure we will go back to a sort of normal again.