The Government of Maldives will no longer issue on-arrival visas to travellers arriving from countries heavily affected by the Ebola outbreak.
Arrivals from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea will not be issued visas, third country nationals who have visited these countries will not be granted entry until 21 days have elapsed.
“The Government of Maldives has taken these decisions based on the need to protect the Maldives from the disease, and to assure both nationals and tourists of the seriousness with which the matter is being taken by the authorities,” explained the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The current outbreak of the virus was first reported in March this year and has gone on to kill more than 4000 people in West Africa, making it more deadly than all previous ebola epidemics combined.
Minister of Defence and acting health minister Mohamed Nazim last night announced the measures during a ceremony at the health ministry, expressing his hope that the disease not spread to a country as vulnerable as the Maldives.
Thirty day visas are currently provided on arrival to over one million tourists visiting the Maldives each year. The generous visa rules have also made the country a popular transit point for refugees.
A man from Nigeria was place in quarantine in Hulhumalé late last month after appearing to be unwell, though he was later found to have no symptoms of the virus.
During a health ministry press conference held following this incident, officials explained that all arrivals from the affected region were being screened at immigration and monitored upon their release.
HPA Epidemiologist Dr Aishath Aroona Abdulla noted at the time that 109 individuals from the affected areas had visited the Maldives since screening began, but that none had come from the three worst affected countries.
A press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday reiterated the “quite insignificant” levels of travel between the countries in question and the luxury tourist destination.
Visitors from Africa made up just 0.7 percent of all tourist arrivals to the Maldives in 2013, with 0.4 percent of these coming from South Africa.
In late August the government advised Maldivian nationals against travel to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It was announced yesterday that any Maldivians returning from the three heavily affected countries will now be isolated for the duration of the 21 day incubation period.
The first symptoms of the disease – currently known to be transmitted only through direct contact and bodily fluids – include fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache, and a sore throat. This is followed by diarrhoea and vomitting.
The disease can impair the functioning of organs such as the kidneys and liver and can result in internal and external bleeding. There is currently no vaccine or cure for Ebola and past outbreaks have had fatality rates of up to 90 percent.