Travellers planning to visit the Maldives will need to show negative Covid-19 test results from Thursday.
All tourists and visitors heading to the tropical archipelago must present a negative PCR test on arrival at Male International Airport. The test must have been taken in the past 72 hours, according to the latest update from the Ministry of Tourism.
The move comes less than two months after the country reopened to tourists, initially with no requirements for quarantine or Covid-19 testing for visitors.
The Indian Ocean nation reopened on July 15 after its borders were closed for 110 days to help prevent the spread of the virus. Initially, travellers were welcome as long as they submitted a health declaration form at least 24 hours before they arrived.
The isolated nature of the country, where most resorts have their own island, meant the authorities opted to leave it to individual resorts to implement their own rules.
All resorts were to have a trained medical professional in place capable of collecting samples for Covid-19 testing, while some islands opted to test guests for Covid-19 in an effort to create coronavirus-free bubbles. It's unclear whether these resorts will continue to test arriving guests now that virus-free certificates are mandatory for all travellers.
Island hopping is back
While entry restrictions to the country have been tightened, the Ministry of Tourism has also relaxed rules on island-hopping between resorts. Travellers may now visit more than one resort in the archipelago on the same trip as part of a new "Split Stay" initiative.
To qualify to be part of the initiative, resorts must have not recorded a coronavirus case for at least 28 days and must be able to carry out exit screenings on travellers to record temperatures and medical history. Any tourist that wants to visit two resorts on the same trip must apply for permission from the Ministry of Tourism at least two days before their intended date of travel.
Guesthouses to reopen
The islands' guesthouses will also be allowed to reopen from October, the authorities have said. Popular with backpackers, locals and those seeking to explore the islands on a budget, the resumption of guesthouses will expose the Maldives to a wider demographic of travellers.
Local councils for each island must apply to the Ministry of Tourism for permission to resume operations. Once this has been obtained, individual guesthouses can then apply to the tourism authority for a permit to resume activities so long as they meet certain requirements in terms of social distancing and safety measures.
This does not apply to guesthouses in the Greater Male region where operations will remain closed until case numbers of the coronavirus are lower.
Tourism is the major economic driver for the Maldives. International flights restarted in July, but the number of travellers visiting has been lower than expected. The country has reported an expected loss of more than $450 million (Dh1.65 billion) due to a lack of tourism this year.
It has reported 8,486 confirmed cases of the virus, with 125 new cases recorded on Saturday, September 5. The country has a population of just over 542,000.