Travelling to Maldives? Here’s everything you need to know amidst coronavirus outbreak

Travellers are increasingly on edge as the novel coronavirus pandemic grips the globe, prompting travel restrictions, cancellations and suspensions.

Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus which originated in China in December, has reached the Maldives, a popular Indian Ocean tourist destination.

If you have made plans to travel to the Maldives, it’s perfectly normal for you to be nervous. Here is everything you need to know about travelling to the Maldives right now.

How badly is the Maldives affected?

On March 8, Maldives reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus, as two hotel employees tested positive for Covid-19 at a luxury resort in the archipelago.

Eleven more cases — all foreigners working or staying resorts and liveaboard vessels — have since been identified. All the patients are under isolation, being treated at designated quarantine facilities.

Local transmission of Covid-19 has not been reported.

What are the measures in place?

Maldives announced a state of public health emergency on Thursday, the first such declaration under a recent public health protection law.

The public health emergency declaration has allowed the government to introduce a series of unprecedented restrictive and social distancing measures, including a 14-day ban on inter-island travel of tourists, including for excursions and between resort islands.

Guesthouses and hotels in capital Male and its suburbs of Hulhumale and Villimale have also been shut down for two weeks.

The Maldives had closed its borders to arrivals from the worst-hit countries, including mainland China, Italy, Bangladesh, Iran and Spain. Visitors from three regions of Germany (Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg), two regions of France (Île-de-France and Grand Est) and two regions of South Korea are also banned from entering the country.

Cruise ships had also been banned from docking at any of the country’s ports.

All direct flights to and from China, Italy, South Korea and Iran 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 Maldives earlier put several resorts in lockdown, but have since eased those measures, as many samples tested negative for Covid-19.

Is it safe to visit Maldives?

Most of the country’s 150 plus resorts are operating as usual. This means that majority of bookings will not be affected at all. The few that are affected can be rescheduled by contacting the respective property.

Travellers that wish to experience the Maldives on a budget are affected the most, as guesthouses in the capital city and its suburbs remain closed for two weeks.

Some island councils have also taken their own measures, restricting the entry of tourists. So, it’s always good to check with the guesthouse you have booked with before you begin your journey.

Once you arrive in Maldives, expect to go through extra screening measures in place. You will also be required to fill a health declaration form (some major airlines operating flights to the Maldives hand out these forms on board along with the regular immigration clearance form).

These preventive measures may cause frustrations for you, as the country’s main Velana International Airport — you will most probably be arriving here — is already operating under stress and beyond its capacity. But please bare with the local authorities; they are just doing their job and helping save lives.

Don’t hold off your travel plans; the Maldives is still safe, for those visiting from countries that are not on the ban list. The country’s ‘one-island, one-resort’ is also proving to be an effective safeguard against a major outbreak of Covid-19.

Photo: Mihaaru News

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