The COVID-19 testing facility established at Maafaru International Airport, Noonu Atoll, was officially unveiled on Monday.
The centre, funded by luxury resort brand Soneva, was inaugurated by Minister of Health Abdulla Ameen and CEO of ADK Hospitals Ahmed Nashid, in a virtual ceremony attended by Soneva's CEO and founder Sonu Shivdasani and Velaa Private Island's General Manager Michal Smejc.
Developed within 30 days, the PCR laboratory uses the Roche Lifecycle 96 machine, with a capacity to process 700 tests daily and issue results within 24 hours.
The testing facility will be operated by ADK Hospitals, and funded by Soneva and Velaa.
“Maafaru testing centre could not have come at a more crucial time. As the country gears to reopen borders, testing for COVID-19 becomes even more critical", said Minister Ameen at the ceremony.
"In addition to testing guests and staff, the facility at Maafaru can cater to the testing needs of the local population. I would like to thank Soneva, Velaa and ADK for this remarkable gesture of corporate social responsibility".
Speaking at the ceremony, Soneva's CEO Sonu Shivdasani conveyed special gratitude to ADK's CEO Ahmed Nashid and Chief Operating Officer Fardeen Mohamed for their key roles in obtaining the relevant equipment. He also thanked the Soneva members involved in the venture.
"My team and I conferred with many infectious disease experts from around the world whilst we composed our COVID response. We consider testing a crucial aspect of our approach. Our conversations with these leading experts, who are at the front line of the battle against COVID confirmed that this virus is less virulent than past viruses including the severe flu that the world was inflicted by 2018", said Shivdasani.
"Ironically, it is the fact that it is much milder than past severe viruses and flu's that has brought the world to a standstill. Because it is less virulent, the initial signs of infection that usually oblige someone to naturally self-isolate and lead others to stay away, is absent. COVID has had many asymptomatic carriers and as a result, the R rate of this virus is substantially higher than viruses that have come before. The best method to reduce the R rate is to test, test, and test again".
Soneva noted that all guests and staff at its local properties, Soneva Fushi in Baa Atoll and Soneva Jani in Noonu Atoll, will be tested prior to arrival. They assured that their resorts will create safe, virus-free environments where guests may vacation without worrying about COVID-19.
The inauguration of Maafaru Airport's COVID-19 testing centre comes two days before Maldives is to reopen its borders on July 15, to kickstart the tourism industry, the backbone of the island nation's economy, which has been at a deadlock for nearly four months.
While resorts across the country are permitted to welcome guests starting from July 15 itself, guesthouses will be given clearance to resume operations in August.
Meanwhile, the government of Maldives has revealed its goal of attracting 900,000 tourists during the remaining months of 2020.