By Joanna Ossinger Jul 17, 2020
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Here's some good news for those frustrated by the lack of travel options in the Covid-19 era: The Maldives opened to international visitors on July 15.
And, yes, that includes US citizens. South Africans, on the other hand, won't be able to holiday in this idyllic destination as international borders are currently closed due to South African government regulation.
The picturesque chain of almost 1 200 islands in the Indian Ocean has a remote location that lends itself naturally to social distancing, with luxury accommodations focused on private overwater bungalows and much of the activity outdoors as well, all fortunate factors for the economy of the 400 000-person country that's heavily dependent on tourism.
International visitors will be allowed only on resort islands and live aboard boats as of July 15. On August 1, guest houses and hotels on inhabited islands will be allowed to reopen. Of course, that comes with the big caveat that you still have to get there and then get back.
Visiting is no small affair. Nor is it cheap. Because almost every resort in the Maldives is its own private island. Many luxury hotels charge upwards of $1 500 (R24 992) a night. And that's before seaplane or speed boat transfers, which can be expensive.
Still, the Maldives is trying to make it relatively easy, at least on its end.
According to an announcement from the Maldives Marketing & PR Corp, tourists are not required to pay an additional fee, produce a certificate or test result indicative of negative status for Covid-19 prior to entry into Maldives. For tourists without symptoms, there is no requirement for quarantine either, it revealed.
Any tourist who does show Covid-19 symptoms will have to pay for a test, the statement cautioned, adding that people with visible symptoms or those with a history of contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case "are advised not to travel to the Maldives."
The Maldives has been working toward the reopening for weeks.
Those who do venture to the archipelago will have some choice. By the end of the month, more than 40 resorts out of a total of about 150 properties are expected to be operational, according to the Maldives' Ministry of Tourism. The Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru and Soneva Fushi is already open, and the One & Only Reethi Rah will open on July 24, and Milaidhoo Island is slated for an August 1 opening, a list from the ministry showed.
Many resorts are waiting a bit longer, though and peak season is from around December to March, anyway. That's when skies are clearest and tropical temperatures fall to more moderate levels. Almost 50 of the resorts on the country's list are planning to open around October 1. Como Maalifushi said it will get going again in mid-November.
The islands' resorts and accommodations are taking all recommended precautions, a Maldives spokesperson said. Properties have implemented new cleanliness and hygiene protocols to ensure that guests will be safe.
Some of those protocols fall on the more basic side. The Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru says it has an arrival procedure that involves a temperature screening and questions about recent travel history.
At the Angsana Velavaru Maldives resort, all public areas and back-of-house areas are sanitized on an hourly basis, and rooms are deep-cleaned and disinfected with virus-specific protocols, the website says. Temperature checks are mandatory at the spa.
Soneva is taking a stricter approach at its two Maldives resorts, Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi. Sanitizing luggage before passengers even arrive, requiring a real-time PCR Covid-19 test upon arrival (it has invested in a Roche Diagnostics testing machine), and taking temperatures every day are all part of the process now, according to the company's website. There's another Covid-19 test on the fifth day of the stay. Soneva says its "hosts," or staff, are tested every five days, and all materials and produce that are coming onto the islands will undergo cleaning and sanitation procedures first.
"Although this could be considered as being slightly excessive or overcautious, both Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani are 'One Island, One Resort'; it is our goal to make our private island homes Covid-19 free environments so that all of our guests can truly relax and engage with our Hosts and fellow travellers and not feel any concern about a risk of infection," the site declares.
If you come up positive, the resorts will still take care of you, with attention from a medical team as you isolate in your villa, and Soneva waiving the daily room rate for the next 14 days. The value of that stay, in one of Soneva Jani's currently-discounted entry-level rooms: $37 723.
If any guest needs to be hospitalised, the Maldives has built up sufficient hospital and medical capacity to treat Covid-19 effectively, the website revealed, noting that the hospital on a neighbouring island, only 10 minutes away by speedboat, has a new ICU unit with 20 beds.
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