The Greater Male' Area has opened for tourists after months of closure due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

The Tourism Ministry and the Health Protection Agency HPA had said earlier that tourist establishments such as guest houses and hotels operating in the Greater Male' Area would be allowed to reopen today and authorities have confirmed that 15 tourist establishments in the area have now reopened for business with the approval from the HPA. These include establishments in both Male' and Hulhumale'

Last night, Health Protection Agency HPA had issued a guideline for the re-opening of tourist guest houses and hotels in the Greater Male’ area.

In its guideline, HPA said that the COVID-19 epidemic trends in the Greater Male area have improved in recent weeks and that the sample positivity rate has consistently remained low at a level of less than 5 percent since mid of September 2020.

It noted that with this improvement, guesthouses and hotels in the Greater Male’ area are now allowed to open for general operations if they fulfill the public health requirements and after obtaining approval from the Ministry of Tourism.

HPA said that tourist establishments must formulate a COVID-19 safe plan and submitted to the Ministry of Tourism.

It said that the Ministry will assess the COVID-19 safe plan of the tourist guest house before giving a permit to operate.

COVID-19 Safe plan should address infection prevention measures established in the tourist guest house or hotel according to this guideline and the allocation of designated isolation rooms for temporary isolation of a symptomatic guest until PCR testing for COVID-19 can be done and the test results obtained. It also enforces that all staff working at the establishment must wear masks (medical masks or cloth masks) at all times inside the guest house or hotel premises.

HPA highlighted that tourists who initially stay at a tourist guest house or hotel in the Greater Male’ area as part of a split stay, must do PCR testing for COVID-19 (despite a pre-arrival PCR test done prior to entry into the country) if the duration of stay in Greater Male’ area is more than 48 hours.

It said that He/she may travel to the resort, safari, or tourist guest house island if the result of this PCR test is negative.

HPA also said that tourists who initially stay at a tourist resort or safari or a tourist guest house island are not required to do a PCR test for COVID-19 prior to traveling to a guest house or Hotel in Greater Male’ area.

A guesthouse in Hulhumale'/ File Photo

The Agency also said that tourists who stay in hotels and guest houses in Greater Male’ area may visit safaris for short visits such as dinners.

It added that these safaris must obtain day visits approval from Tourism Ministry and that these safaris are only allowed to operate within the day visits procedure and are not allowed to host tourists for regular stay and accommodation.

HPA said that these safaris must ensure that COVID19 prevention measures such as wearing masks, physical distancing, and hand hygiene are followed by tourists as well as the crew.

Safari yachts at Hulhumale

HPA also said that as staff of tourist guest houses and hotels in the Greater Male’ area are at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19, these staff are required to do PCR testing for COVID-19 once every month.

Since reopening its borders the Maldives, recently crowned as the 'World's Leading Destination', has been enjoying a steady flow of eager tourists, seeking a safe haven from the perils of the COVID-19 pandemic in their countries and had welcomed its 100,000th visitor since mid-July last week.

Ali Razzan, Senior Executive Director - Ministry of Tourism / Photo: President's Office

Last night, Speaking at the bi-weekly press conference arranged by the Health Emergency Operations Center, Senior Executive Director at the Tourism Ministry Ali Razzan had said that since the island nation opened its arms to tourists, more than 100,000 have visited since but only 228 had tested positive for COVID-19.

He said that this is just 0.2 percent of the visitors who arrived to soak in the Sunny Side of Life and that itself paints a hopeful picture for an industry that was brought to its knees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He added that none of the tourists who had tested positive for COVID-19 had caused a community spread in the country, a remarkable feat considering that several islands across the country are now playing host to many foreign guests.