As the number of coronavirus(COVID-19) cases continue to rise, so does the impact on daily life for people across the globe. The virus that has disrupted businesses of all sectors around the world has made a huge dent in the travel industry with widespread panic and uncertainty of the future. In these times of misinformation, the biggest question travellers are facing is whether to travel and if so which places are safe to go. Based on facts given by official sources and government bodies, here is an understanding of the current situation in the Maldives and the future of travel.
Coronavirus in Maldives
As of 6th April 2020, Maldives has 19 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country. With all of them being foreign nationals, it was confirmed by the local government on 10th March that the resorts on four islands of Kuredu, Vilamendhoo, Sandies Bathala and Kuramathi were in temporary lock down after confirmed cases were detected there. It is also currently advising against any non-essential travel to these islands.
However, the country’s Health Protection Agency(HPA) has since then lifted the lock down. Addressing the management of these four resort islands, government asked them to maintain the cordoned areas where the detected high-risk individuals must remain isolated for the mandated quarantine duration. The Maldives HPA had also declared a State of Public Health Emergency from 12th March for up to 30 days. (Source: WHO)
Travelling to Maldives right now
The local government is taking all precautions to prevent further spread of the virus. This includes a ban on all cruise ships from entering and docking in the Maldives. Also, other than the public islands, other cruise excursions and public spaces like parks are closed. In addition to this, all visitors to the island who have traveled to mainland China (not including Hong Kong), Iran, Italy, Spain, South Korea and Bangladesh are banned from entering or transiting through the Maldives. Additional screening measures and a mandatory Health Declaration Card has also been put in place by the local authorities.
On March 12, the Indian government had also suspended all existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/international organisations, employment, project visas” until April 15 in an effort to self-quarantine itself. However, after the National lock down was imposed at midnight of 25 March, India allowed stranded foreigners to extend their e-visas.
India had further extended its ban on arriving international passengers including Indian passport holders residing in the United Kingdom, Turkey and whole of Europe till the end of March. (Source: WHO).
Precautions to take while travelling
As per recommendations given by World Health Organisation(WHO), it is necessary for travellers who are sick, to delay or avoid travel to affected areas. General personal hygiene precautions and keeping a distance of one metre from others showing symptoms remain important for travellers. Others include:
- Performing hand hygiene frequently, particularly after contact with respiratory secretions. Hand hygiene includes either cleaning your hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Covering your nose and mouth with a flexed elbow or paper tissue when coughing or sneezing and disposing of the tissue immediately;
- Refraining from touching mouth and nose;
- A medical mask is not required if exhibiting no symptoms, as there is no evidence that wearing a mask of any type protects healthy people. If masks are to be worn, it is critical to follow best practices on how to wear, remove and dispose of them and on hand hygiene after removal.
Travellers returning from affected countries are advised to self-monitor for 14 days and follow local health protocols. (Source: WHO)
As local governments are issuing regular travel advisories based on the changing scenario, experts around the world have been asking travellers to monitor these closely to decide upon their future travel. With the after-effects of this pandemic expected to last for another few months at least, there is an obvious hesitation among travellers for planning future trips. However, many providers are trying to address these concerns by providing temporary relief on change or cancellation penalties. While the impending question of travel in the near future remains unanswered, while planning any trip, it is important to consider risk factors and the quality of healthcare available in the region in case of an emergency.
‘Curated by Neha Bhise’