As the world adapts to life with the CoronaVirus, cities and nations which depend on tourism as a key source of income have figured they can no longer keep their cities closed, we see them open up again. Dubai recently announced its plans to open up to the city to tourists from July 7, 2020, onwards. Now, we hear from the Maldives.
The President of Maldives announced today that the Maldives will re-open its borders for international tourists on July 15, 2020. Resorts, liveaboards and hotels located at uninhabited islands will be open from July 15, 2020. Guest Houses and hotels located at inhabited islands will be open from August 1, 2020.
The Maldives relies heavily on the tourism industry as it accounts for the largest foreign exchange earnings, making it the biggest economic contributor in the country. However, it has come to a standstill due to the stringent public health measures taken to curb COVID-19. The tourism industry has been gearing up to restart; it is set to resume in compliance with protective measures, taking into account the safety of tourists and staff working in the industry.
The guidelines for re-opening the tourism sector, “Public Health Interventions to Prevent COVID-19 Transmission in the Tourism Sector”, was also released today by the Ministry of Tourism of the Maldives giving comprehensive information for all sectors across the tourism industry on their standard operating procedures, as well as important information to tourists. You can have a full look at these guidelines here.
According to the guidelines, tourists are not required to pay an additional fee, produce a certificate or test result indicative of negative status for COVID-19 prior to entry into the Maldives. For tourists without symptoms, there is no requirement for quarantine either. The guideline will be periodically reviewed based on further developments. Here are some of the main guidelines I could cull out from the extensive documentation.
Before your travel to the Maldives
- Travellers who have a history of contact with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID- 19 within the past 14 days and persons who have a fever or respiratory symptoms such as cough, sore throat, shortness of breath within the past 14 days are advised not to travel to the Maldives.
- Regular official updates on travel to the Maldives re provided on the websites of the Ministry of Tourism (https://www.tourism.gov.mv/) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (https://www.foreign.gov.mv/) of the Maldives.
- A confirmed booking in a tourist establishment registered with the Ministry of Tourism, prior to travelling is mandatory.
- Tourist resorts, liveaboard vessels and hotels located on uninhabited islands are open for bookings starting from July 15, 2020.
- Guest houses and hotels located on inhabited islands will open for bookings starting from August 1, 2020.
- However, guest houses and hotels located on inhabited islands will be allowed to accommodate transiting passengers waiting for domestic transfers under special permits. Transit arrangements can be made through the primary facility where the stay is booked.
- Tourists are advised to directly check offers and operational status with the preferred tourist establishments on their websites and mobile applications.
- Tourists who are visiting the Maldives during phase 1 of opening shall book their entire stay in one registered establishment. Stays at multiple resorts and hotels are not permitted during this period. However, exemptions will be made for transit arrangements.
During your flight
- All passengers should submit a health declaration card upon arrival, completed onboard the aircraft.
- As per border health and aviation procedure, if a passenger has fever, cough or shortness of breath on board the flight it should be informed to the Health Protection Agency.
Arrival at the airport
- Tourists travelling to the Maldives will be provided with a free 30-day tourist visa on arrival.
- A health declaration card will be required as part of the on-arrival procedure.
- All arriving passengers should wear masks
- Physical distancing should be ensured.
- Hand sanitization at the entry to the arrival terminal.
- All arriving passengers must undergo thermal screening at entry.
- Tourists will not be subject to any quarantine measures upon arrival to the Maldives.
- Installing the contact tracing app “TraceEkee” is encouraged for all tourists.
- Additionally, local health authorities may conduct random testing at no cost to travellers.
- Requirement for tourists to inform the resort if he/she tests positive for COVID-19 upon return from the Maldives: All tourists should inform the resort if they test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of departure from the resort.
Tourists will not be required to submit any medical test results for entry to the Maldives. However, travellers presenting with symptoms of Covid-19 upon arrival will be subject to a PCR test at the traveller’s cost. The tourist will be sent to a designated facility for isolation. Isolation will be done at a designated transit facility or at the tourists’ destination resort (depending on the resort policy). If the result of the PCR test is positive, the tourist may continue isolation at the resort or will be transferred to a designated state-run isolation facility. If the result of the PCR test is negative, the tourist will be released from isolation. In the case of a negative PCR test in a tourist who is isolated temporarily at a transit facility, he/she will be released from isolation and may travel to the destination resort. Although released from isolation, a symptomatic tourist will have to follow restrictions on attending public places such as restaurants until the symptoms resolve.
Contact tracing will be done for the symptomatic patient to identify passengers who were close contacts during the flight and during the journey. Contacts who are tourists can be quarantined in their destination resorts until the PCR test result of the patient is known. Contacts will be released from quarantine if the patients’ PCR test is negative.
On arrival, if any tourist gives a history of contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 within 14 days prior to arrival (as per passenger health declaration card), the tourist must be examined by the doctor at the airport clinic. If the person is asymptomatic, he/she will require to be quarantined. If the person is symptomatic, a sample should be taken for PCR for COVID-19 and the patient should be sent to a designated facility for isolation.
At departure from your place of stay
- Tourists will have to undergo an exit screening prior to departure from the place of stay.
- The exit screening questionnaire should document any history of fever or respiratory symptoms such as cough or shortness of breath within the prior 14 days. It should be ensured that the guest is not under quarantine or isolation. The temperature should be checked to exclude fever.
- Routine testing for COVID-19 is not required prior to departure, however during exit screening, if any tourist is found to have fever or symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 within the prior 14 days, they should undergo PCR testing for COVID-19.
- Testing services are available in the Maldives for tourists who require Covid-19 test results to return to their countries of origin or another destination.
This is great news for everyone who needs a vacation and physical distancing at the same time since you are practically surrounded by a few people and a lot of water in the Maldives. It is one of my favourite vacation spots, but it will be hot so I will wait it out for a few months before I think of heading there.
What do you think of the Maldives plan to open up for tourists?
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