Maldives tightens coronavirus preventive measures, bans arrivals from Italy

Maldives on Saturday announced a series of fresh preventive measures to tackle a potential outbreak of the new coronavirus that has grappled countries across the world, including the banning of passengers and flights from Italy.

Tourism minister Ali Waheed told journalists in capital Male Saturday morning that a travel advisory will come into effect at 12am Sunday. All visitors travelling from Italy, including any on transit flights, will be denied entry, he said.

Direct and transit flights to and from Italy will also be suspended, the minister added.

No confirmed cases had been found in the Maldives.

However, these new measures on arrivals from Italy come after an Italian who had vacationed in Maldives was tested positive for the new coronavirus after his return to Italy. A doctor who had come into contact with the Italian during his holiday in Maldives had been quarantined.

Meanwhile, an Italian who had been holidaying at a guesthouse in an inhabited island was quarantined on Friday after he began showing symptoms of the virus. The island is currently in lockdown.

A total of 107 people have now been killed by the coronavirus in Italy, which has the most serious outbreak in Europe. More than 3,000 cases have been confirmed in the country.

Italy is the second biggest source market to Maldives tourism with a marketshare of 12 per cent by the end January, as arrivals from the Maldives’ oldest source market increased by 23.8 per cent to reach 20,766 from 16,768 in January 2019.

Maldives had taken several preventive measures against the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

The Maldives had earlier closed its borders to arrivals from mainland China, South Korea and Iran, whilst cruise ships had been banned from docking at any of the country’s ports. All direct flights to and from China had also been cancelled.

The island nation had installed thermal screening cameras at its international airports. Quarantine facilities, including designated islets from the 1,192 islands that make up the archipelago, had also been established.

The global coronavirus outbreak is expected to hit the Maldivian economy hard, as tourism contributes the bulk of the island nation’s state revenue and foreign reserves.

The government has already announced several cost cutting measures, including a freeze on the hiring of new staff and suspension of non-essential travel by state officials.

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