Health Emergency Operations Center (HEOC) has stated that nine residential islands have made preparations in accordance with Health Protection Agency (HPA) guidelines, and are set to reopen guesthouses for international tourists on Thursday.
Guesthouses in residential islands have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic since March 17.
Joining the HEOC press conference on Wednesday night, Tourism Ministry’s Senior Executive Director Ali Razzan said that it is the responsibility of local councils to check guesthouses meet requirements in accordance with HPA guidelines and verify it for the Tourism Ministry.
The nine residential islands which will be opening guesthouses on Thursday are:
“We believe additional guesthouses will fulfill requirements and receive SOP approval,” said Razzan.
Razzan said that total 16 guesthouses located in the nine islands have been authorized to reopen, and he expects the number to increase come Thursday.
Masks have been mandatory in islands with operational guesthouses. However masks will remain optional and not mandatory, if the islands do not have any visitors even after guesthouses reopen.
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 island nation has been recording a steady increase in tourist arrivals since it reopened its borders on July 15, with 1,752 arrivals in July, 7,628 arrivals in August, and 9,538 arrivals in September. 3,140 tourist arrivals have been recorded within the first five days on this October, and the numbers are expected to further improve once guesthouses reopen.
Maldives is currently open to all tourists, provided they have proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken maximum 96 hours before departure from their original destination.