Maldives main airport’s coronavirus health measures get intl accreditation
Velana International Airport in Maldives has been accredited under Airports Council International’s (ACI) new Airport Health Accreditation programme.
ACI’s Airport Health Accreditation programme assists airports by assessing new health measures and procedures introduced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in accordance with ICAO Council Aviation Recovery Task Force recommendations.
Areas of assessment for accreditation include cleaning and disinfection, physical distancing (where feasible and practical), staff protection, physical layout, passenger communications and passenger facilities.
“Our commitment to safety and excellence in service quality strives to demonstrate reliability and convenience for all our passengers. We are happy to be part of ACI World Airport Health Accreditation Programme,” an announcement by the Maldives main airport read.
‘New normal’ for airlines, airport
‘New normal’ measures have been introduced at the Velana International Airport.
Blue markers, spaced three feet apart, are in place in front of ticketing and check-in counters, and at the pre-flight inspection zone in the international terminal, as well as in front of the check-in counters in the domestic terminal.
Glass separators of four feet have also been installed in between all check-in counters.
The social distancing measures are complemented by added hygiene and safety measures, including daily disinfection of all seats, desks, lounge areas, ticketing and check-in counters, and flooring and airport tarmac area.
Meanwhile, airlines operating flights to the Maldives are told to ensure passengers wear face masks on-board at all times.
Exceptions can be made for passengers below six years of age and those who have a medical reason for not covering their face. Masks can be removed for eating and drinking, taking oral medication, or on the directions of a crew member.
Crew members must advise passengers to replace their mask when it becomes wet or soiled.
All passengers should complete an online health declaration form before arrival and departure.
Before departure, all passengers will have to fulfil the health requirements of their onward destination. This includes coronavirus tests, if required.
No quarantine, free on-arrival visa
The Maldives reopened its borders on July 15.
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 were to be allowed to reopen on August 1 but a surge in coronavirus cases in capital Male forced the authorities to extend a ban on guesthouse operations until October 15.
With the border reopening, 30-day free on-arrival visa is issued to all tourists with a confirmed booking for a stay at any registered tourist facility in the country.
There is no mandatory quarantine or testing on arrival. But tourists have to complete an online health declaration form and provide a negative PCR test certificate on arrival.
Visitors with symptoms of the Covid-19 respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus or those travelling with someone who has similar symptoms are also tested at their own 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 8,003.
Twenty-nine deaths have been reported, while 5,265 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.