Maldives Are Opening To Foreign Tourists From July 15, 2020 Without Quarantine Restrictions

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In about three weeks from today the Maldives are opening up to foreign tourists again and their newest plan to make it comfortable for tourists actually looks quite attractive.

There was an earlier plan that was briefly discussed which called for long minimum stays, restrictive testing environments and an expensive visa but this has now turned 180 degrees.

The Maldives tourism sector accounts for roughly 28% of the GDP and according to the World Bank had 1.7 million arrivals last year. This all came to a screeching halt when Covid-19 hit and decimated the industry when the country locked down on March 26th.

Now the tourism department and government of the Maldives announced that effective July 15, 2020 foreign tourists would be welcome again and the Covid safety mechanisms have been tuned to the affect that all checks will be conducted in the least intrusive way.

His Excellency President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced in an address to the nation today that Maldives will re-open its borders for international tourists on 15th July 2020. Resorts, Liveaboards and hotels located at uninhabited islands will be open from 15 of July 2020. Guest Houses and hotels located at inhabited islands will be open from 1 August 2020.

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 to 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 giving comprehensive information for all sectors across the tourism industry on their standard operating procedures, as well as important information to tourists.

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 Maldives. For tourists without symptoms, there is no requirement for quarantine either. The guideline will be periodically reviewed based on further developments. …

Here is a summary outlining the new restrictions and entry guidelines:

Arrival at the airport 
/ immigration / transfer to hotel (island):

●  Tourists travelling to Maldives will be provided 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 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.
●  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 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 should 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 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.
●  Installing the contact tracing app “TraceEkee” is encouraged for all tourists.
●  Additionally, local health authorities may conduct random testing at no cost to travellers.
●  Mandatory restrictions on travel within Maldives for tourists during the COVID-19 pandemic: Tourists should observe the existing Health Protection Agency (HPA) rules and regulations on restrictions on inter island travel. The Ministry of Tourism should continuously update and inform the tourist establishments regarding the travel restrictions imposed by HPA.
●  Requirement for tourists to inform the resort if he/she tests positive for COVID-19 upon return from Maldives : All tourists should inform the resort if they test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of departure from the resort.

What isn’t mention here is at what cost the isolation would occur if one tests positive for Covid-19, be it at the resort or at the health facility. I’d imagine the resort would charge the full rate? It’s already amazing to me that they would allow someone who tested positive to proceed to the resort at all end then spend the entire isolation there. Resorts aren’t medical facilities so how would continuous treatment look like and doesn’t this individual then contaminate the entire villa?

There is a key phrase however and that is “Depending on the resort policy”. While the government might say it’s ok to go to the resort I can’t imagine the resort itself and their management company (Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott etc) allowing infected guests aka patients to occupy the resort.

This is the press release in it’s entirety:

Download (PDF, 142KB)

The links attached in the footnotes either don’t work at all or lead to a plain video without any information, just a few pretty pictures.

These new conditions are a wholesale departure from the previously stringent measures which included a $100 fee for the visa on arrival as well as a 14 day minimum stay which will definitely eat into a travel budget.

With competing tourist destinations such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia (Bali) still being closed I’m sure there are many who will consider this option. With the caveat of what is happening upon return to the travelers home country. Would you go on a vacation if a mandatory quarantine is waiting for you upon return?

Conclusion

I’m torn between the positive aspects of this hands on approach (likely due to financial distress) and the risks this regulation poses by allowing tourists diagnosed with Covid-19 to “sit it out” at their resort if that’s even the right description for it. Is it really a great idea to be transported to a remote island into a luxury resort, far away from a real medical facility? What options of daily or even regular healthcare are there? In the end as I wrote above I don’t think this option will materialize as property policy will be to deny access to infected guests.

It’s unnecessary to go further into a detailed medical debate here and I’m not qualified to discuss anything beyond my personal option anyway. I’m not scared of traveling these days and will do so latest at the end of July, however as alluring the Maldives option sounds one should think twice about the possibility to travel to very remote destinations where healthcare is rudimentary at best. This also includes a major island like Bali where I’ve been at a hospital once and let’s just say you don’t want to be there with something very serious.

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