Masks mandatory in islands with operational guesthouses

A group of migrant works wear masks as they walk towards a bus stand in Male' on May 17, 2020. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

With guesthouses in residential islands set to allowed to reopen starting Thursday, October 15, Health Emergency Operations Center (HEOC) reminds that masks will be mandatory for both locals and tourists in islands with operational guesthouses.

Guesthouses were closed for international tourists following confirmation of COVID-19 cases in Maldives on March 17.

In a press conference on Monday night, HEOC spokesperson and epidemiologist Dr. Nazla Rafeeq said the authorities will issue the order to make masks mandatory in islands with operational guesthouses soon.

Guesthouses are required to have a COVID-19 safe plan in place before they can be authorized to reopen. Once a guesthouse shares the plan with the Tourism Ministry, the Tourism Ministry will review the plan and grant permission after the local council of the island where the guesthouse is located visits the property to ensure that arrangements have been made in accordance with the plan, and that all health and safety requirements have been met.

Each guesthouse is required to establish a focal point, and to have rooms designated for quarantine and isolation.

As such, islands with more than 500 tourist beds are required to have minimum 15 rooms allocated for quarantine and isolation, islands with 100 to 500 tourist beds are required to have minimum eight rooms allocated for quarantine and isolation, and islands with less than 100 tourist beds are required to have minimum five rooms allocated for quarantine and isolation.

Guesthouses are also required to have signage and posters on display to remind guests about health and safety measures, and to have sufficient stock of PPEs.

Guesthouses are required to orient their staff on the COVID-19 safe plan, and to have arrangements in place so the staff can take a shower and change their work clothes prior to leaving for home after work.

Prior to reopening guesthouses, locals must be educated on COVID-19 and safety and preventive measures. Islands with operational guesthouses are required to have a flu clinic, and to maintain a sufficient stock to PPEs and test kits at all times.

Taxis are required to have partitions, and tourists will be prohibited from entering residential properties.

While guesthouses in residential islands outside greater Male’ area are scheduled to reopen starting Thursday, guesthouses in greater Male’ will not be allowed to reopen unless the infection rate is maintained below five percent for at least 28 days.

Maldives has more than 10,000 tourist beds in guesthouses across 86 islands, and 10 percent of tourist arrivals to Maldives stay in guesthouses.

The guesthouse industry is linked with the income and livelihood of over 6,000 Maldivian people.