On March 8, the Maldives reported its first cases of Coronavirus, when two resort employees on a private island tested positive for COVID-19. The area has since been successful in managing the pandemic with 13 out of 20 cases making full recoveries, and no deaths reported.
In late February and early March, after the virus began spreading through China, many wealthy travellers started descending on the Maldives in private jets and charters as well as a few superyachts prior to the country shutting down on March 12. They immediately began the long isolation process on many of the areas stunning private islands, all completely removed from the rest of the world.
Minister of Tourism Ali Waheed announced this week that there are currently around 1,000 tourists in the Maldives, staying at 27 resorts that are still open. He also noted that most of the tourists currently in the Maldives did not wish to return to their own country, and wanted to remain there in isolation from the rest of the world. With daily resort rates often over $3,000 per day, this is an expensive isolation period for many of them. Many of the islands offer private doctors, and mini-hospitals should any medical need arise.
The Maldives announced a state of public health emergency on March 12 and stopped all arrival visas. They closed the borders to all arrivals from mainland China, Italy, Bangladesh, Iran, Spain, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. Visitors from Germany, France, and South Korea were also banned from entering the country. Subsequently, all direct flights to and from China, Italy, South Korea, and Iran were canceled, while cruise ships and foreign yachts were banned from docking at any port. By the end of March, all flights were canceled into and out of the Maldives. (Qatar Airlines recently announced one upcoming special flight to get tourists out of the Maldives on April 21 connecting to London, Paris, and Frankfurt.)
A wealthy friend of mine and his family left Europe when the pandemic first began, and are staying at one of my favorite islands, the LUX* North Male Atoll Resort, until May. They send me images daily of empty beaches, crystal clear waters, and full staff caring for their every need. Another friend is on a superyacht moored off a nearby North Malé Atoll island, along with at least three other megayachts (including the stunning 446-foot Flying Fox) that have been isolated since February. The fully equipped hospital on the adjacent island with a private doctor adds to their peace of mind as they enjoy the spectacular weather, albeit at a safe distance from others.
I spoke to my friends Jeremy Austin and Angie Villa, both high-end content creators and influencers, who were almost stranded in the Maldives doing a shoot, “We had just finished having a dinner with the resort manager at JW Marriott Maldives when we all collectively received the news that the Maldives government would be placing a full ban on inter-island travel for tourists and locals. This meant no one would be allowed to travel to other resort islands, and even the locals would not be allowed to return home to their local islands.
At first we were a bit confused because they were still allowing tourists to fly in from certain countries, so it created a bit of tension around the resort, especially considering the newcomers could quite possibly be bringing the virus with them to our island. At least there was a health team on the island that was monitoring the new arrivals and doing their best to ensure they were not showing any symptoms. We still made sure to keep a safe distance from most of the other guests on the island, especially the newcomers, isolating ourselves at the restaurants and avoiding any resort functions.
As the conditions became even more serious around the world, the resort began taking stricter precautions like shutting down the buffets and only allowing A la carte dining. We did our best to stay optimistic through it all and being that we were there as media working with the property on a social media campaign, we decided to take advantage of the nearly empty resort and spent most of our days creating as much content as possible.
Originally, the last day of our Maldives trip was April 6; however, we were forced to move our departure date to April 24. Because of this sudden change, it cost us over $1,500, not because the airline charged us a fee, but because everyone was trying to fly out of the Maldives and back home as soon as possible, so the fares increased. Thankfully, we took the last flight out from Qatar Airways on March 24 and made it safely back home to Miami 24 hours later. We found out a day later that following our departure, the Maldives government enforced a complete lockdown of the country banning all flights, even arrival flights, so we were lucky and grateful just make it out!”
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