President scheduled for press conference to announce border reopening date

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. (File Photo/President's Office)

Tourism Minister Ali Waheed says President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih is expected to announce the date for the reopening of Maldives’ borders for tourists this Tuesday.

Ali Waheed was summoned for a meeting with the Parliament’s Petitions Committee on Tuesday morning.

Speaking at the meeting, Ali Waheed said the President is scheduled to deliver a national address later this Tuesday, and is expected to announce the date for border reopening in his address.

“I believe the President will deliver a national address sometime today during which he will shed light on this. What I mean is, he will announce the date on which Maldives will reopen for tourists,” he said.

Ali Waheed said both the Tourism Ministry and Health Protection Agency (HPA) have completed all necessary preparations to reopen the country’s borders to tourists.

All relevant institutions are now waiting for the date, he said.

Ali Waheed noted that resorts, businesses and workers are facing dire financial difficulties with the cease in tourism – the country’s main economic driver.

He said that the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in unprecedented damages to the Maldivian tourism industry, surpassing damages incurred during previous crises including the 2004 tsunami and the 2009 global financial crisis.

Shortly after Ali Waheed's announcement at the committee meeting, President's spokesperson Ibrahim Hood issued a statement announcing the President is scheduled for a press conference at 04:30 pm.

Maldives ceased the issuance of on-arrival visa and closed its borders in face of the escalation in the coronavirus pandemic on March 27 – cutting off the island nation from its main source of income.

The Maldivian government has announced plans to reopen the country’s borders to tourists in July, but has yet to announce a date. It has also yet to finalize the safe tourism guidelines drafted by Tourism Ministry in preparation of the reopening of Maldives’ borders.

Parliament Speaker, former President Mohamed Nasheed said on Monday that the government was discussing reopening the borders on July 16.

While a date remains to be announced, Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL), which manages Maldives' main gate – Velana International Airport (VIA), recently announced the airport is ready to accommodate international operations as early as July 1.

And while government has yet to release the final safe tourism guidelines, it has announced that tourists will be issued on-arrival visa without any conditions, and will not be imposed additional fees and will not be required to undergo mandatory quarantine.