Maldives Guesthouses Reopen after COVID-19 closure
Everything you need to know
19 Oct, 2020
Guesthouses across Maldives reopened doors for tourists on Thursday, after a long period of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister of Tourism Dr Abdulla Mauoom welcomed the first guesthouse tourists at a ceremony held in Maafushi, Kaafu Atoll.
Kaani Palm Beach in Maafushi was the first guesthouse in the country to reopen with two Slovakian tourists and two Egyptian tourists.
Speaking at the ceremony, Minister Mausoom expressed optimism that the resumption of local tourism would boost dollar inflows into the country and bolster Maldives' economic recovery efforts.
According to the tourism ministry, a total of 22 guesthouses in 12 islands recommenced operations on the scheduled date of October 15. In addition to Maafushi, these islands are Hanimaadhoo in Haa Dhaalu Atoll, Narudhoo and Fohdhoo in Shaviyani Atoll, Huraa and Guraidhoo in Kaafu Atoll, Mathiveri and Ukulhas in Alif Alif Atoll, Thinadhoo, Fulidhoo and Keyodhoo in Vaau Atoll, and Gaadhifushi in Thaa Atoll.
After a long period of closure as a preventive measure amidst the ongoing pandemic, the state moved towards restarting the guesthouse industry after assessing the present-day situation of the archipelago.
The tourism ministry has repeatedly asserted that guesthouse operations must be conducted in accordance with a set of strict regulations.
Establishments are required to seek authorisation from respective local councils prior to submitting an application to the tourism ministry with a detailed Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), in line with the Health Protection Agency (HPA)'s guidelines, on how safety measures will be implemented.
The guidelines stipulate that each guesthouse must have a separate isolation area based on bed capacity, for positive cases and close contacts, while flu clinics and designated vehicles for transportation must be present on every island where local tourism resumes.
Similar to tourists with reservations on resorts and liveaboards, visitors with bookings at guesthouses are also required to present a negative COVID-19 test conducted within 96 hours prior to their arrival in Maldives. Additionally, tourists holidaying at inhabited islands are mandated to undergo departure testing as a measure to facilitate more convenient contact tracing in case of outbreaks.
According to HPA, wearing masks in public will be mandatory for both locals and tourists in islands where guesthouses resume operations.
As with numerous countries around the world, in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Maldives closed its air and sea borders to tourist arrivals from March 27 to July 15.
The restrictions on international travel left Maldives' heavily tourism reliant economy in an extremely vulnerable state. In mid-April, the World Bank projected that Maldives would be the worst-hit economy in the South Asian region due to the pandemic.
However, the Minister of Tourism earlier expressed hopes for the industry's recovery, estimating that 100,000 tourists would visit Maldives before the end of 2020.
Before you start planning your budget trip, here’s everything you, as a traveler, need to know about guesthouses reopening.
All tourists who plan to stay in tourist guest houses must hold a negative result for a nucleic acid test (PCR test) for COVID-19 prior to entry into the country. The sample for this test must be taken not more than 72 hours prior to the scheduled time of departure from the first port of embarkation en route to Maldives.
Prior to departure from Maldives, PCR testing is mandatory for any tourist who stayed on a tourist guest house island. If a specific time frame for PCR testing is stated in the immigration requirements of the destination country, this time frame must be followed. Otherwise, the PCR test must be done within 72 hours prior to departure from Maldives. The tourist guest house must facilitate the PCR testing for the tourist. The tourist or the guest house must bear all costs associated with PCR testing.
While at the island
Wearing masks will be mandatory in public places for locals as well as tourists at all tourist guest house islands. Existing HPA guidelines on wearing of masks should be followed.
You are recommended to use the contact tracing app “TraceEkee” to facilitate contact tracing. Persons placed under quarantine/isolation must register in “haalubelun” portal. Although tourists are not allowed to enter residential houses, they are allowed to use public cafes and restaurants. Cafes and restaurants must follow the infection prevention measures described in the relevant HPA guidelines.
Further, tourists are allowed to use shopping facilities on the island. Shops must follow the infection prevention measures described in the relevant HPA guidelines.
Travelling between islands
Tourists are not allowed to travel from a tourist guest house island to a non-tourist guest house island. However, they are allowed to travel between two tourist guest houses islands and between a resort and a tourist guest house island if the resort or tourist guest house island is not placed under monitoring by HPA. (i.e. no travel restrictions placed by HPA on the resort or tourist guest house island). Tourists are not allowed to travel between a safari and a tourist guest house island.
Tourists must undergo an exit screening prior to travel from a tourist guest house island to a resort or to another tourist guest house island. This is to ensure that a symptomatic person or a person in quarantine does not exit the island. The exit screening should ask for any history of fever or respiratory symptoms such as cough, sore throat, running nose or shortness of breath. It should be ensured that the guest is not under quarantine or isolation. The temperature should be checked to exclude fever. Any tourist who has a fever or respiratory symptoms or who is in quarantine should not be allowed to travel and will require testing for COVID-19.
What if you develop symptoms?
If a tourist or staff of a tourist guest house develops any symptoms of acute respiratory illness, such as fever, cough, sore throat, running nose or shortness of breath, they should immediately wear a mask and they should be isolated until medical consultation and testing is done and results obtained. If the tourist is sharing the room with others, they must be isolated separately at the designated isolation room at the guest house. Close contacts of the tourist must wear mask and quarantine themselves in their room.
Medical consultation and COVID-19 PCR sampling must be done for all symptomatic persons at the flu clinic of the island. The symptomatic person should wear a mask when attending the flu clinic. If the results are negative, the tourist can be released from isolation.
In case of a positive COVID19 result
If the symptomatic tourist gets positive for COVID-19, the result will be informed by HPA to the patient and the island task force focal point. Contact tracing of the positive case must be done by the COVID-19 task force of the island. All close contacts must undergo PCR testing. Close contacts identified among staff and tourists must be quarantined in the designated quarantine facility of the island.
The COVID-19 task force of the island should daily check on the condition of quarantined persons. The medical officer at the health centre will review the positive patient and discuss the case with clinical management advisory team (CMAT) to triage the patient to the appropriate level of care. If mild disease, age less than 60 years and no adverse comorbid conditions, the positive tourist or tourist guest house staff, must be isolated at the designated place for isolation in the island.
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