Etihad Airways to resume Maldives flights on July 16

Etihad Airways will resume passenger flights to Maldives from July 16, as the airline continues to add travel options for customers travelling after the coronavirus pandemic.

Male is among 15 more destinations the Abu Dhabi-based airline plans to add to its network starting July 16.

“Throughout July, we’re planning to operate flights to more than 40 worldwide destinations. We continue to work closely with the UAE government and global aviation authorities to increase our network in the future,” the United Arab Emirates carrier said on its website.

In addition to the Maldivian capital, the carrier will add the Indian cities of Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kozhikode and Mumbai.

For Pakistan, it will operate only inbound flights to three Pakistani cities: Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore.

In the Middle East, Etihad will start flying to Amman and Cairo.

For Europe, it will add Belgrade, Istanbul, Manchester, Munich and Dusseldorf.

The airline said passengers can check in and choose their seats online around 30 hours before departure.

It said passengers do not need a Covid-19 test before they travel to the airport.

Etihad continues to follow UAE and international government, regulatory and health authority directives, and is playing its part in helping to limit the spread of Covid-19.

The airline has implemented an extensive sanitisation and customer safety programme and is practicing the highest standards of hygiene at every part of the customer journey. This includes catering, aircraft and cabin deep-cleaning, check-in, health screening, boarding, inflight, crew interaction, meal service, disembarkation and ground transportation, amongst others.

Etihad launched daily scheduled flights between the capital cities of the UAE and the Maldives in November 2011.

Before the pandemic, the airline was operating 11 services a week on the Abu Dhabi-Male route.

Meanwhile, Dubai-based Emirates will also resume passenger flights to the Maldives from July 16.

The announcements come as the Maldives prepares to reopen its borders on July 15.

Maldivian officials have said that a majority of international airlines that operated scheduled flights to the Maldives before the coronavirus pandemic will resume their operations in July.

With the borders reopening on July 15, resorts and hotels on uninhabited islands as well as liveaboard vessels can begin hosting tourists right away.

Guesthouses and hotels located on inhabited islands will be allowed to reopen on August 1. Passengers on cruise ships and yachts will be barred from disembarking at inhabited islands until then.

Thirty-day free on-arrival visa will be issued to all tourists with a confirmed booking for a stay at any registered tourist facility in the country. The entire holiday has to be booked at a single facility except for transit arrangements.

There will be no mandatory quarantine or testing on arrival. Tourists will only have to complete a health declaration form.

But visitors with symptoms of the Covid-19 respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus or those travelling with someone who has similar symptoms will be tested at their expense.

The coronavirus outbreak has also 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.

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, only 382,760 tourists visited the Maldives before the country closed its borders on March 27. It was a 40.8 per cent decline over the 646,092 that visited the Maldives from January to March last year.

With arrival numbers falling, several resorts across the Maldives suspended operations.

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 2,337.

Eight deaths have been reported and 1,927 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 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 were also shut.

Restaurants and cafes in the capital were 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 was also ordered.

These measures allowed authorities to contain the outbreak.

More than half of the people who contracted the virus have recovered and daily recoveries have over taken the number of new infections detected per day.

The restrictions are now being eased in phases, with the third phase kicking in Wednesday.

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