Maldives reopens borders for tourists despite coronavirus spike

It’s long been regarded one of the world’s most beautiful holiday destinations and now the Maldives is hoping to be one of the safest and easiest places to visit right now.

The Maldives, an idyllic atoll nation whose turquoise waters, spectacular coral reefs and luxury resorts, is welcoming back international tourists today after relaxing strict border rules.

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While Australians are unable to visit due to our own global travel ban, the Maldives is now theoretically open to all international tourists who can arrive without being forced into quarantine or needing to prove they’ve tested negative for COVID-19, CNN reports.

The Maldives has officially reopened to international tourists. Picture: iStockSource:Supplied

Passengers disembark from a Qatar Airways aircraft at the Velana International Airport in the Maldives on July 15. Picture: Ahmed Shurau/AFPSource:AFP

The nation believes it can keep visitors safe as most tourism islands feature only one resort, and visitors will have to book their entire stay at a single location.

That way, should someone become infected, it will be fairly easy to trace and limit any potential spread.

However, AFP reports the reopening comes amid a spike in virus cases in the Maldives, mainly among poor migrant labourers in the capital, Male. The country, which has a population of about 340,000 people, has seen just over 2800 COVID-19 cases, including 14 deaths.

More flights are returning to Male in light of the border reopening.

Several airlines already fly there from the Middle East, and Etihad and Turkish Airlines will resume flights to the Maldives today and tomorrow respectively.

But the island’s tourism operators understand that while there’s a huge interest in returning to the dream holiday destination, other countries’ international travel rules – including bans on non-essential travel, and quarantine requirements for returning travellers – mean the influx may not be massive.

Visitors can now return to the Maldives’ luxury resorts. Picture: SonevaSource:Supplied

The Maldives is regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful holiday spots. Picture: iStockSource:istock

“What is important to take into consideration is that it depends not only on the Maldives, but also on lifting of travel restrictions in different countries,” Sonu Shivdasani, the chief executive of Soneva which has two resorts in the Maldives, told CNN Travel.

“It is not just desire but ability.”

CNN said of the 156 resorts on Maldives Tourism’s list of reopening dates, 43 opened from July 15, with more to follow in August, September and October.

Meanwhile another idyllic island destination, Hawaii, announced it was delaying plans to reopen to visitors from abroad.

Hawaii has decided to delay plans to welcome back tourists from outside the US state. Picture iStockSource:istock

Hawaii’s government said an increasing number of “uncontrolled” outbreaks in several US mainland states had prompted it to delay plans to welcome back travellers with a 14-day quarantine requirement on August 1.

That date has now been pushed back to at least September.

“This was an extremely difficult decision to make,” Governor David Ige said this week.

“This delay will further hurt our economy but, as I’ve always said, we will make decisions based on the best available science and facts prioritising the health and safety of Hawaii residents.

“Our county mayors and I agree, this delay is essential to protect our community.”

According to the Associated Press, the quarantine requirement virtually closed tourism to Hawaii since the policy took effect in late March. The unemployment rate is currently 22.6 per cent, the second-highest in the US.

The island state has had 1292 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 22 deaths. It has fared significantly better than mainland America. The US as a whole has had 3.48 million virus infections with 138,000 people dying from the disease.

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