Maldives reopened its borders to global tourists on Wednesday, welcoming its first international visitors in more than three months, comprising a group of 103 tourists from Europe and other parts of the world.
The island nation is among the first in the region to lift border restrictions, with no entry requirements. The first group of visitors arrived via Qatar Airways, among 11 carriers including SriLankan Airlines, Emirates and Etihad resuming flights to the country.
Speaking at a virtual media briefing on Wednesday, foreign minister Abdulla Shahid; health minister Abdulla Ameen; and Thoyyib Mohamed, managing director of the state-run Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation; addressed the health and safety measures in place at the airport and resort islands to an audience of nearly 300, mostly journalists from Asia and Europe.
The trio noted that even if there is an increase in Covid-19 cases, it would be confined to the capital city of Male and a few other locally-populated islands.
Unlike other destinations, the over 150 resorts in the Maldives is spread in isolation across 1,190 islands, spanning 90,000km2 of Indian Ocean. Only staff and tourists are accommodated on each of the resort islands, while travel between islands is banned.
Visitors are given a 30-day free visa-on-arrival, while asymptomatic arriving passengers are not subject to any Covid-19 tests, and will be whisked straight to their resort from the airport.
All resorts will adhere to sanitation guidelines set by the Health Ministry, including having designated isolation rooms for quarantining of staff and guests if needed, social distancing measures, and use of sanitisers and face masks when necessary.
Ameen said Covid-19 testing facilities are available across the country in different locations, while a transportation system is in place between resorts and health facilities in the event a foreign guest has to be tested.
Responding to a query from TTG Asia on the bookings trend in July, Mohamed said that since at least seven international airlines are restarting flights to the Maldives from Wednesday and over the next few days, “we are assured of bookings from (July 15)”.
He added: “We see positive growth in the pattern of bookings on some (online) platforms for the upcoming months and the latter part of the year.”
As at Tuesday, the Maldives has reported 2,762 Covid-19 cases, with 2,290 recoveries and 13 deaths.