Maldives has restarted tourism and reopened borders for visitors from all nationalities from 15th July 2020. To contain the spread of the COVID-19, countries are enforcing mandatory negative COVID-19 PCR test results when travelers return to their countries. This raises the question: Can Maldives address this requirement? Do we have enough testing facilities in place to carry out the testing in accordance with the obligatory timeline?
From August 1, 2020, all inbound and transit passengers including citizens, residents and tourists are required to carry a negative COVID-19 PCR test result, according to the UAE government’s latest travel advisory. Travelers must undergo tests in their country and present a negative test report at check-in desks before flying to the Emirates. The test must be taken a maximum of 96 hours before departure.
According to the statistics by Maldives Immigration, while Maldives welcomed 3rd greatest number of travelers from UAE (with 143) in July 2020 since the reopening, the UAE is the main hub used by European and American travelers as well.
In addition to this, with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) calling upon governments around the world to implement standardized testing facilities at all airports, airlines are making it mandatory for the testing. The negative COVID-19 PCR test has become a mandatory requirement by the airlines.
The safe tourism guidelines revealed by the Ministry of Tourism says that testing services are available in Maldives for tourists who require COVID-19 test results to return to their countries of origin or another destination.
As per the protocol for COVID-19 testing in a tourist establishment prior to departure by Health Protection Agency (HPA), there are only 7 labs where tourist’s departure screening samples could be taken. It includes:
In the case of a suspected case detected at a tourist establishment, there are only 10 labs for COVID-19 PCR testing across the Maldives:
In addition to the specific guidelines to handle the samples, the properties are awaiting the need for approval by HPA to conduct the testing.
The staff returning to the resorts are required to quarantine as per the protocols and to complete the PCR testing upon completion of the 14-day isolation. While HPA informs that the Tourism Ministry will handle these, there is no specific solid response from any of the authorities.
With all this, several resorts have raised concerns. Tourists are stranded at the properties. While resorts are also required to overtake the additional costs for the PCR testing of the guests before departure, they have not got adequate information to make it happen. Was the Maldives really ready to reopen the borders?