Minister of Tourism Ali Waheed, on Wednesday, revealed that 43 tourists were presently stranded in Maldives, and are receiving support from Maldives’ government.
Speaking at the regularly-held press briefing hosted by National Emergency Operations Centre, the minister explained that 27 of these tourists are now based at the state’s ‘Dream Facility’ established in Olhuvelifushi, Lhaviyani Atoll.
The remaining 16 are tourists from Maafushi and are currently dispersed among guesthouses in Male City’s suburban Hulhumale’ island-district.
“Three months later, many of these tourists do not have a way home, and have run out of funds. Therefore, the government has stepped in to look after them”, said the minister.
“Maldives is doing its utmost to show hospitality to our guests”.
The minister went on to express that, when tourism restarts on July 15 for resorts and August 1 for guesthouses across the island nation, should Maldives double its effort to ensure health safety and maintain control measures, the country would likely not close its borders again.
However, the minister also noted that the government would not hesitate to enforce travel restrictions, should Maldives face a ‘second wave’ of infections.
As with many countries around the world, in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Maldives closed its air and sea borders to tourist arrivals on March 27, having already restricted inter-island and inter-atoll travel.
Just a few months earlier, government projections for tourism were overwhelmingly positive, hoping to reach the two million mark in 2020 and topple 2019’s record of 1.7 million tourist arrivals.
The travel restrictions, implemented as part of Maldives' response to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, have left the country vulnerable to severe economic impacts. Mid-April, World Bank projected that Maldives would be the worst-hit economy in the South Asian region due to the pandemic.
Heavily reliant on tourism for revenue, with the industry temporarily grounded to a halt, Maldives calculates a shortfall of approximately USD 450 million (MVR 6.9 billion) in foreign currency, while this year's projected state deficit is estimated at MVR 13 billion.
Maldives presently records a total of 2,260 confirmed cases, out of which 418 are active cases of COVID-19. Thus far, the country records 1,839 recoveries and eight fatalities.
On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. To date, the new strain of novel coronavirus has infected over 9.4 million people and claimed over 481,622 lives around the world. However, out of those infected, more than 5 million people have recovered.