Maldives lifts health emergency and mandatory mask rule

The Ministry of Health will draw up and implement a “national strategy and action plan” as part of its COVID-19 response going forward

Updated - March 14, 2022 10:59 pm IST

Published - March 14, 2022 06:41 pm IST - COLOMBO

Photo used for representation purpose only. File

Photo used for representation purpose only. File | Photo Credit: G. Ramakrishna

The Maldives on Sundaylifted itshealth emergency, declared at the beginning of the pandemic two years ago, and relaxed the mandatory mask policy, amid wide vaccine coverage and a low positivity rate.

The Ministry of Health will draw up and implement a “national strategy and action plan” as part of its COVID-19 response going forward, a statement from the office of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said. In a televised address to the country, the President said Maldives suffered losses totalling MVR 71.3 billion — roughly $ 4 billion — due to the pandemic.

Tourism boost

The economy of the scenic Indian Ocean archipelago, home to some five lakh people, is heavily reliant on tourism sector. Before the pandemic struck, revenue from the sector accounted for about 70% of the country’s GDP.  Despite a sharp decline in arrivals initially, with countries shutting their borders and halting international travel, the Maldives was quick to welcome back tourists to resorts on its different atolls. By December 2020, the country recorded 5 lakh tourist arrivals and by October 2021, the country reached its target of over 1 million tourist arrivals. India is currently the third largest source market for Maldivian tourism, following Russia and the United Kingdom, according to data published by the Ministry of Tourism.

Further easing entry into the Maldives on Sunday, authorities announced that a PCR test is not mandatory anymore to enter the Maldives, effective from March 13, 2022. Wearing masks is now optional, except in hospitals and health care centres, and should the COVID-19 positivity rate go above 20% in any island.

President Solih thanked “international partners, global organisations and neighbouring countries” who, he said, played “a pivotal role” in helping the country overcome the impact of the pandemic. As many as 3,71, 439 people in the Maldives are fully vaccinated, official data showed. India gifted 2 lakh doses of vaccines to the Maldives, while Male purchased another lakh doses commercially.

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