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The Covid-19 pandemic has limited global travel significantly, but one slice of paradise continues to welcome visitors with open arms. The Maldives closed its borders for just over three months at the beginning of the pandemic, but tourism restarted in July 2020. A few months ago, I wrote this blog post about the entry requirements and safety measures that resorts were taking to protect their guests. Now, having spent a beautiful few weeks in paradise, I’m back to tell you all about my experiences and what it was actually like to The Maldives during Covid.
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The Maldivian government took early and effective measures against the coronavirus. Fast action, combined with the country’s natural geography, prevented the virus from overwhelming the country as it has in so many other places. At the time of writing, there have been 47 deaths from COVID-19 in the Maldives and just over 13,000 reported cases since March.
The Maldives is an excellent place to travel right now because tourists aren’t required to quarantine. However, it’s not quite as easy to get in as it once was. Here’s what you need to go to the Maldives:
I flew to the Maldives with Qatar Airways. As you’d expect, there were several safety measures in place. For one thing, it was much emptier than usual. In the economy section, most middle seats were unoccupied to ensure social distancing.
Face masks were mandatory throughout the airport. From the boarding gate onwards, the airline required passengers to wear plastic face shields, too. At first, I didn’t realise that I needed to remove the protective film and spent a good few minutes wondering how I’d last the flight with such cloudy vision.
Both types of mask had to be worn at all times, except for when eating and drinking. It wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought, although my ears eventually began to hurt.
During my visit, it was very interesting to see how different resorts were handling the pandemic; there certainly wasn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.
My first stop was the gorgeous Pullman Maamutaa resort. This resort didn’t test guests for Covid-19 on arrival. It was operating at around 50% capacity and since most guests spent the majority of their time in their spacious villas, this was definitely a socially distant stay. There were hand sanitizer stations all over the island with foot pump dispensers to minimize contact, which I thought was clever.
At Soneva Fushi, masks were required when entering and leaving the property, but not for the rest of the stay. Guests must take a PCR test on arrival and then quarantine in their villas until the results come back. That’s no big sacrifice in this place, believe me. We were more than happy to stay within the bounds of our enormous villa. Once the PCR test comes back negative, it’s all plain sailing from there. We arrived in the evening and our results came through at 6am the following morning, so we were then free to enjoy the rest of our stay without a care in the world.
At Emerald, you receive a finger prick test on arrival. Interestingly, this was both an antigen and antibody test, so it not only tells you whether you have the virus, but also whether or not you’ve already had it (I’m happy to say it was a negative on both counts for everyone in our party.) This test is much less invasive than having a cotton swab shoved up your nose, too.
If the test indicates you have the virus, the resort then conducts a PCR test and you must quarantine in your villa until you receive the results. If it’s positive, you have to quarantine for 14 days but so far, this hasn’t happened.
There were also temperature checks at morning and evening meals, as well as hand sanitizer stations all over the island. The staff wear masks but for guests, it’s not necessary. The restaurants have also been set up in a socially distanced fashion, but so skillfully that I didn’t even realise!
Most activities and excursions were running as normal in the Maldives, except for trips to visit local islands. This was a little disappointing, but totally understandable. However, it was business as usual with jet skiing, dolphin-spotting and swimming with manta rays, so all was not lost.
Leaving is always the worst part of any Maldives trip! Before you leave the country, you must:
For the most part, it was business as usual in the Maldives. I can’t tell you how refreshing that was after the insanity of 2020. It was bliss to visit a covid-free bubble and forget about the world for a while. In fact, I even met families who were waiting out the pandemic at the luxury resorts I visited, and what a way to do it, if you have the means. The Maldives is a paradiscal escape from reality – now more than ever.
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