Maldives Tightens Visitor Entry Rules

All arriving tourists will be asked to show negative Covid-19 test results starting this Thursday.

Photo: Jailam Rashad/Unsplash

Heavily reliant on tourism and with no real domestic market to speak of, the Maldives bucked the worldwide trend with lenient entry requirements when it reopened its borders on July 15. Visitors of all nationalities to the Indian Ocean archipelago do not need to spend any period of time in quarantine or even present a medical certificate proving they are free of Covid-19; tourists are only tested for the virus before leaving the country. But those guidelines are now being updated due to a spike in coronavirus infections. The Maldives has logged more than 1,600 new coronavirus cases in the past two weeks, bringing the nationwide total to 8,584 infections.

The Maldivian tourism ministry revealed last week that starting on September 10, short-term visitors would have to bring negative Covid-19 results from a PCR test conducted within 72 hours of departure. Officials said the new rule was being introduced “for the safety of all,” particularly workers in the hospitality industry. Agence France-Presse has reported that coronavirus infections have been detected at more than a dozen Maldivian resorts since the country’s July reopening, with 29 local staff members and 16 visitors testing positive so far.

While the Maldives may be open for business, potential leisure travelers are staying away, deterred by various factors such as the mandatory 14-day quarantines that practically all countries have imposed on returning citizens. The Maldives is not on the EU or the United Kingdom’s “green list” of low-risk regions, nor has it opened quarantine-free “travel bubbles” with its Asian neighbors. Thanks in part to these restrictions and limited international flights, visitor arrivals in August numbered about 7,000—a drastic slump of almost 95 percent from the same period last year, when just over 139,000 tourists entered the country.

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