Maldives, on a bid to insulate the remote nation from the spread of the COVID-19, has turned luxury resort hotels in the idyllic archipelago into quarantine facilities. The number of confirmed cases has escalated to over 500 active cases with 2 fatalities. Health officials have forecasted a potential increase in the spread of the pandemic in the Male’ City area within the next two weeks, leaving the need for more quarantine facilities at utmost importance. But how exactly does this work? Whats the rationale behind it and the legal implications behind the conversion of these resorts into quarantine facilities?
According to an article published on Nasheed and Co law firm – one of the renowned law firms in the country, the Minister of health is given the power under the Public Health (Protection) Act of 2012 to commandeer a building to convert it into a quarantine or isolation facility. However the resorts are relaunched as quarantine facilities in Maldives under the Tourism Act, and more specifically under the Island Lease Agreement – but with some “improvisation”.
The article by law firm explained that the government has opted to come into an understanding with the owners for the scope of this takeover by signing an addendum to the Island Lease Agreement. By reason of this addendum, the owner continues to be on the island, be in factual possession, and proceed with the operation of the island – not for exploitation of income or accommodating tourists – but for placing individuals on quarantine and isolation.
When the lease agreement is suspended, the period of lease is not taken into account while calculating the term of the lease. That is already stated in the Island Lease Agreement. So the period of suspension becomes a rent free period.
While the government is paying merely MVR 750 per day, nothing close to the cost of operating a resort even as a quarantine or isolation facility, this is a bold move by the resorts who are participating in these efforts.
It is a very much needed humble gesture by the resort for the country from the tourism industry, but more specifically by the resort owner. Some 20 or more resorts have opted to make their properties available as quarantine facilities.
However, since resort bookings are taken in advance, it may take sometime for those resorts to sanitize and make their properties operational again.
Luxury resorts stepping up to do their bit for the nation in the wake of such a pandemic reflects the industry’s response for a higher calling – the call to serve the nation in time of need. Tourism industry stakeholders, together with the government are exhausting all their resources to combat the dark times we are faced today.