How can you stay safe on your post-coronavirus trip?
The global coronavirus pandemic has left several of us distressed as we are forced to hit pause on our travel plans and stay home. But there might be a surge in traveling once countries around the world reopen their borders.
If you are making travel plans, make sure you are in line with the safety guidelines issued by both international and local authorities. You can also follow these helpful tips if you want to avoid contracting Covid-19 on your trip.
Test yourself: If you are showing signs of the virus, get yourself tested. If you are waiting for your test results, the best thing to do is postpone your trip.
Have your medical and travel history ready: This might come in handy as destinations are expected to check your medical and travel history to make sure you and others around you are safe, and to ensure that the chances of you catching the virus are slim to none.
Carry all essentials: Get yourself a couple of face masks and gloves. Carry hand sanitisers and wet tissues with you at all times.
Practise social distancing: Don’t stand too close to people or linger in areas which are busy; keep a distance of six feet (two metres) at all times, if possible.
Avoid touching stairs, buttons and similar things with your bare hands: Always wear gloves when you are opening doors, handling luggage or even operating lifts.
Avoid sneezing in your hands: Sneeze into a tissue (and later dispose it safely) or into your elbows.
Be informed: Keep up with statistics, check the World Health Organisation guidelines, and check the safety requirements put in place by the country you are traveling to.
The Maldives is preparing to reopen its borders to visitors in July.
The country’s tourism ministry has drafted and invited comments from industry stakeholders on its own guidelines on reopening the borders.
The coronavirus outbreak has hit the Maldivian economy hard, as travel restrictions and other preventive measures affect the country’s lucrative tourism industry, which contributes the bulk of the island nation’s state revenue and foreign reserves.
All international airlines have suspended scheduled operations to the Maldives, as the island nation enforced a blanket suspension of on-arrival visa in late March in a bid to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Cruise ships and foreign yachts were also banned from docking at any of the country’s ports.
Before the pandemic, the government had been bullish about tourism prospects, targeting two million, high-spending holidaymakers this year after last year’s record 1.7 million.
However, tourist arrivals saw a year-over-year decline of 22.8 per cent in the first 10 days of March. Officials say the number of tourist arrivals to the Maldives could drop by half in 2020.
With arrival numbers falling and the visa suspension in effect, several resorts across the Maldives had been closed.
Tourism has been the bedrock of the Maldives’ economic success. The $5 billion-dollar economy grew by 6.7 per cent in 2018 with tourism generating 60 per cent of foreign income.
However, the government is at present projecting a possible 13 per cent economic contraction this year — an estimated $778 million hit.
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.
Eighteen more cases — all foreigners working or staying resorts and liveaboard vessels except five Maldivians who had returned from abroad — were later identified.
A six-case cluster of locals, detected in capital Male on April 15, confirmed community transmission of the coronavirus. Several more clusters have since been identified, bringing the total number of confirmed case in the Maldives to 1,883.
Seven deaths have been reported and 717 have made full recoveries.
The Maldives announced a state of public health emergency on March 12, 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 stay-at-home orders in capital Male and its suburbs, a ban on inter-island transport and public gatherings across the country, and a nationwide closing of government offices, schools, colleges and universities.
Non-essential services and public places in the capital such as gyms, cinemas and parks have also been shut.
Restaurants and cafes in the capital have been asked to stop dine-in service and switch to takeaway and delivery.
A nationwide shutdown of all guesthouses, city hotels and spa facilities located on inhabited islands is also in effect.
Photo: The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort