Maldives in nationwide guesthouse shutdown to contain coronavirus
Maldives on Tuesday imposed a nationwide shut down of all guesthouses and city hotels, as the popular island holiday destination takes a series of drastic preventive measures aimed at containing the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Tourism minister Ali Waheed told reporters in capital Male Tuesday afternoon that no tourist will be allowed to check-in to any guesthouse or city hotel in the country from 6pm Tuesday, local time.
The nationwide ban announced on Tuesday extends last week’s shut down of guesthouses in capital Male and its suburbs, Hulhumale and Villimale.
Over 600 guesthouses — all located in inhabited islands, unlike the destination’s luxurious ‘one-island, one-resort’ establishments — are in operation across the archipelago.
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.
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.
The Maldives had closed its borders to arrivals from some of the worst-hit countries, including mainland China, Italy, Bangladesh, Iran, Spain, the United Kingdom and Malaysia. 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 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.