Ministry of Tourism revealed, on Wednesday, that guesthouses across Maldives, excluding those located in the Greater Male' region, may resume services from October 15 onwards.
Speaking at an online press conference hosted by the ministry, Tourism Minister Mausoom stated that reopening guesthouses in the capital region would be considered once the number of patients testing positive for COVID-19 reduces to five percent, based on the current figures.
Therefore, as of now the guesthouses in Male' area can only be used for transit stays, which are allowed even under current circumstances.
"If things go well, [we] will ease the current guidelines. If things go badly, [we] will have to tighten the guidelines", the recently appointed minister explained.
"Our aim is to boost guesthouses and continue to promote the main economic activity of Maldives".
Under the ministry's guidelines, guesthouses seeking to restart operations must submit a permit, issued by the relevant island council, to the Tourism Ministry.
Island councils must ensure that the island meets the following requirements before issuing permits to guesthouses:
- Isolation and quarantine facilities must be present on the island
- A COVID-19 taskforce must be actively operating on the island
- The island must have a designated vehicle to transport patients from guesthouses to facilities, in case a tourist test positive for the virus
- The hospital or health centre of the island must be equipped to deal with COVID-19 cases
- The hospital or health centre of the island must have an isolation room
- There must be enough human resources for sample collection
Following the submission of a permit issued by the respective island council, the Touism Ministry will grant a conditional permit to the guesthouse to complete the required preparations.
Guesthouses must meet the following requirements:
- Disclose the safety measures set in place to curb the spread of COVID-19
- Ensure that social distancing can be maintained in the guesthouse
- Stock enough first aid kits and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Staff members must don a particular uniform and wear masks during working hours
- Staff members must use the TraceEkee mobile application and urge all incoming tourists to use the app as well
Tourists staying at guesthouses are not mandated to wear masks whilst walking around on the island. However, they must wear face masks when entering an enclosed space shared with many individuals.
However, tourists are also prohibited from entering homes of islanders.
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.
The restrictions on international travel left Maldives' heavily tourism reliant economy in an extremely vulnerable state. 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.