Germany requires travellers from ‘risk areas’ to take coronavirus test, Maldives included
Germany will require people arriving from countries deemed high risk, such as the Maldives, to take coronavirus tests starting this weekend, the health minister Jens Spahn said Thursday, as the country recorded its highest daily tally of new infections in three months.
German officials have voiced alarm over a steady upward creep in the number of new infections over recent weeks. The national disease control centre, the Robert Koch Institute, said 1,045 cases were recorded on Wednesday — the first time since May 7 that it has counted more than 1,000 new cases in a day.
Daily figures can be volatile or distorted by delays in reporting, and the number is still far short of the peak of more than 6,000 reached in early April.
Who needs to be tested?
People entering from countries deemed high-risk are already required to quarantine for 14 days unless they can present a negative test result no more than two days old.
Starting Saturday, people arriving from those countries will also be required to take a test unless they bring a new test result with them.
The cost of the test will be borne by the German government.
Travellers who refuse tests could face fines of up to 25,000 euros ($29,600), but the exact amount is up to local authorities.
Spahn suggested airline travellers from outside the EU should provide a recent test before they are allowed to board a plane to the 27-nation bloc, an idea that would need approval by all EU member states.
What are the risk areas?
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) maintains a list of risk areas that they update on a daily basis.
Broadly, the list features countries and territories with significantly higher levels of coronavirus infection than Germany. It extends to most of the world outside the Europe Union, as well as Luxembourg, parts of northern Spain and the Belgian city of Antwerp.
The Maldives is also included in the list.
Germany’s Covid-19 response has been widely regarded as relatively successful. The Robert Koch Institute has recorded 9,175 deaths from over 213,000 confirmed cases — a lower death rate than in many comparable countries.
Germany is one of the key traditional source markets for the Maldives tourism industry.
Arrivals from Germany saw 11.9 per cent year-over-year increase in 2019, as the number of Germans that holidayed in the Maldives rose to 131,561 — 7.7 per cent of the total arrivals — from 117,532 in 2018. This growth enabled Germany to retain its position as the fourth biggest source market.
Since the Maldives reopened its borders on July 15, German tourists have shown an increasing appetite for the tropical climate of the Indian Ocean tourist paradise.
A total of 135 German holidaymakers visited the Maldives in July, making it the fourth biggest post-reopening source market for Maldives tourism.
With the border reopening, resorts and hotels on uninhabited islands as well as liveaboard vessels are now allowed to host tourists (please see a rolling list of resort reopenings here).
Guesthouses and hotels located on inhabited islands will be allowed to reopen later. 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 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.
Meanwhile, the government’s best case scenario now puts total tourist arrivals for 2020 just above 800,000.
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 4,680.
Nineteen deaths have been reported, while 2,725 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.
Photo: Sun Online