Maldives Drops Proposed Visitor Restrictions

No Covid-19 tests will be conducted on arrival when the country reopens to international tourists in July.

Fuvahmulah, the Maldivian island closest to the Equator. (Photo: Jailam Rashad/Unsplash)

With a population of less than 400,000 scattered across 26 far-flung Indian Ocean atolls, the Maldives has little in the way of a domestic market to fall back on for the initial recovery of its hard-hit tourism sector. A record 1.7 million overseas visitors went on holiday there last year, and the country’s government is keen to once again tap into a major source of revenue.

The Maldivian tourism ministry said in a statement that the country’s borders would reopen to visitors of all nationalities starting in July, though no definitive date has been provided. The statement also came with the reassurance that “guests … will not be charged any additional fees to enter the Maldives.”

This announcement represents a complete shift from the previously proposed entry requirements. In May, it was revealed that the first draft of the government’s mandatory “safe tourism guidelines” would require travelers to stay a minimum of 14 nights and fork out US$100 to pay for a Covid-19 test upon arrival, on top of a new visa fee of US$100. However, all these precautions have been dropped over the course of several subsequent revisions, following advice from stakeholders in the tourism and hospitality industries.

As was the case before the pandemic, tourists will be granted a visa on arrival for free, and there will be no mandatory quarantine. Nor are visitors asked to undergo additional testing for Covid-19 at the airport. Instead of presenting a negative result through a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test before the trip, travelers will have to show proof of a positive antibody test conducted within two weeks before arrival. The measure is not yet set in stone, but it raises concerns as only those previously infected by the virus will have antibodies, and the earliest Covid-19 vaccines (which will trigger the body to develop antibodies in response) are still at least six months away from being rolled out.

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