Maldives Eliminates Testing Requirements For Vaccinated International Travelers

The world-renowned tropical destination of Maldives just became the latest country to relax its COVID-related entry restrictions, as vaccination rates worldwide continue to climb, and the global tide increasingly turns toward treating the pandemic as endemic.

As of March 5, fully vaccinated foreign travelers are no longer required to provide a negative PCR test upon arrival in the Maldives. Neither do they need to present a PCR test prior to departing the South Asian archipelagic nation, according to a notice issued by Maldives Immigration on Friday. However, all inbound international travelers still need to complete the Traveler Health Declaration form within 48 hours of their flight.

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Especially as the Omicron variant has risen to prominence as the planet’s dominant COVID-19 strain—causing a higher number of cases, but typically milder infections—new-case numbers are no longer being considered the dominant metric. Instead, hospitalization and death counts have become key indicators of the COVID-19 situation in any given area.

With the pandemic now in its third year, countries whose economies continue to suffer from the loss of vital tourism revenue are eliminating as many barriers as possible for inbound international travelers. And, as more countries reopen, tourist-centric destinations like the Maldives must compete a little harder to attract their share of the available market.

With an economy that’s heavily reliant on tourism dollars, the Maldives opened its borders quite early on in the course of the pandemic, starting in July 2020. From late July 2021, all international visitors over the age of one needed a negative PCR test taken within 96 hours of departure for the Maldives. Tourists checking out of a guesthouse on any inhabited island also had to provide a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of checkout.

Even while upholding testing requirements as countermeasures to the importation of COVID-19, the country also did what it could to encourage inbound tourism and streamline the travel process by providing free, 30-day visas upon arrival.

With its abundance of private island resorts and an unrivaled pristine, tropical setting, the Maldives didn’t lose any of its appeal, even with pandemic protections. It also launched a campaign to vaccinate visitors during their stays, inviting tourists to “visit, vaccinate and vacation”. To further sweeten the deal, the Maldives also became the world’s first destination to launch its own loyalty program, called ‘Maldives Border Miles’, whereby tourists earn points based on their number of visits and duration of their stays.

According to Our World in Data (a project co-produced by Oxford University and Global Change Data Lab), nearly 69 percent of the population is now fully vaccinated. When vaccines became available in early 2021, the Maldives prioritized the vaccination of its hospitality and tourism workforce. By the end of November 2021, 95 percent of resort workers had been fully vaccinated and 99 percent had received at least one injection.

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