Use of face masks will be mandatory in guest house islands

The use of masks will be mandatory in islands on which local guest houses are operated, the Health Emergecy Operations Centre (HEOC) has reminded.

Resorts and guesthouses in the Maldves were closed in March as a precautionary measure against the COVID-19 pandemic. The government has since allowed resorts to resume operation. Local guest houses except those in the Greater Male’ Region can resume operation from October 15th.

Speaking at HEOC’s press conference held Monday, HEOC’s Spokesperson, Dr. Nazla Rafeeq reminded the public regarding the guidelines included under the tourism SOP. She added that more information regarding the SOP for the tourism sector will be publicized soon.

According to the Health Protection Agency (HPA)’s Standard Operating Procedure for the tourism sector, the use of masks will be mandatory for the public when leaving their homes in inhabited islands were guest hosues are operated.

If a person travel betweens two islands on which guest houes are operated, such a person will not need to quarantine upon arrival at the destination. However, if a person travels from an isand in which a guest hosue is operated travels to an island that has not recommenced guest house operation, such persons will need to quarantine themselves for a period of 14 days. Traveling to islands without undergoing quarantine will be allowed if a special permit is obtained from HPA. Such permits will be issued to those seeking emergency medical services and other such needs.

The SOP also states that tourists will not be allowed to travel to resorts and to islands which does not operate guest houses. However, tourists can travel to guest house islands that are not under HPA’s monitoring at the time of travel. Although tourists stayng at guest houses will not be allowed to visit households and cannot visit liveaboard vessels, there will be no restrictions on visiting other areas of the island.

The new SOP requires local guest houses to fulfill several tasks, including making arrangements to seperately house COVID-positive guests and those needing isolation. Several measures to ensure guest and employee safety must be undertaken. Several responsibilities have also been delegated to island councils.

While the Maldives has over 600 guest houses, the Guest House Association of Maldives (GAM) has estimated a loss of US$ 30 million to the sector as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.