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Maldives reopens border for international passengers

Mariyam Malsa
15 July 2020, MVT 12:36
The first flight that landed at Velana International Airport after Maldives reopened its border. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/MIHAARU
Mariyam Malsa
15 July 2020, MVT 12:36

The Maldivian government, on Wednesday, lifted all restrictions imposed on international travel over the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initial batch of tourists arrived aboard a Qatar Airways flight which landed at Velana International Airport (VIA), Maldives' main international airport, at approximately 0825 hrs.

Authorities have assured that adequate safety protocols are in place and VIA is fully equipped to handle multiple flights landing at the airport per day.

Holidaymakers arriving in Maldives are required to observe social distancing measures and wear facemasks as per guidelines issued by the Health Protection Agency (HPA). While all passengers will undergo thermal screening, individuals with high temperatures, breathing difficulties or other symptoms will be referred to the airport clinic.

Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) previously revealed that a total of 10 airlines, including Qatar Airways, Emirates, Sri Lankan Airlines and IndiGo, had sought slots to land flights at VIA following the reopening of borders.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Tourism has announced that 42 resorts are prepared to welcome guests in July.

A total of 30 resorts will begin operations on July 15 itself, while an additional four resorts are prepared to open doors after the 20th. Eight resorts had continued operations throughout the local COVID-19 outbreak.

Tourists arriving in Maldives following the reopening of borders. PHOTO: LUCAS JALEEL/TWITTER

Overall, a majority of the 157 resorts based in Maldives are scheduled to resume operations before the end of 2020.

Meanwhile, guesthouse establishments across the country will be permitted to restart operations and accept bookings from August 1 onwards.

The Ministry of Tourism has expressed its aspiration of attracting 900,000 tourists to Maldives during the remaining months of 2020.

As with numerous 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, halting the issuance of on-arrival visas.

Just a few months earlier, government projections for tourism were overwhelmingly positive with aims to reach two million tourist arrivals in 2020 and toppling 2019’s record of 1.7 million.

Heavily reliant on tourism for revenue, the restrictions on international travel left the country vulnerable to severe economic impacts. In mid-April, the World Bank projected that Maldives would be the worst-hit economy in the South Asian region due to the pandemic.

Maldives estimates a shortfall of approximately USD 450 million (MVR 6.9 billion) in foreign currency and a state deficit of MVR 13 billion in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the tourism industry.

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