First the smear: the friendly man who performs it wears a white full-body protective suit, a mask, glasses, gloves and a cap over his hair.
He has a box with medical supplies and a cooler with him.
With a stick he takes a sample from his nose and a second from his throat, which is much more gentle than what we are used to from PCR tests in Germany.
"Yes," says Sean, who receives the new guests on the Maldivian hotel island "Soneva Fushi", "we do it here with feeling."
Then he explains that unfortunately you have to stay in your villa until you get a negative test result.
It would only take a few hours, at least no more than a day.
"If all goes well, I'll see you tomorrow at breakfast."
You may find it a little unfortunate that a stay in the Maldives starts with a quarantine, but because the villa is large, you have a pool in the front yard and a few meters behind the sea starts waiting for you to jump in bear the short period of isolation after the long journey quite well.
Vacationing in the Maldives is safe for tour operators
The journey to the island kingdom in the Indian Ocean began 16 hours earlier.
Enough time to wonder what it's like to be on vacation in the Maldives in times of Covid-19.
On the one hand, the country is currently designated as a risk area by the Robert Koch Institute and issued a travel warning by the Foreign Office, while on the other hand it has been declared a safe travel destination by the world tourism organization UNWTO.
A strange contradiction.
Dominik Därr from Trauminsel Reisen sees it like the UNWTO.
Like other organizers, his company offers holidays in the Maldives.
Because the hygiene measures on site are "at least as strictly regulated as in Germany", so that a safe journey is guaranteed, and because every traveler has to meet a number of requirements: You need a hotel booking, a negative PCR test that is no older than before departure than 96 hours, and you have to fill out a health declaration on the online portal of the immigration authority.
Then you get a QR code and off you go.
At the airport, fever is measured on all travelers, corona tests are carried out on a random basis.
In addition, some hotel islands have created test facilities for newcomers, including “Soneva Fushi” and “The Nautilus Maldives”.
Better safe than sorry: waiter with mask in "Como Cocoa Island"
Source: Como Resorts
Since the Maldives reopened the borders to tourists on July 15, 349 hotel complexes with 33,700 beds were reopened (until November 19) and a good 59,000 tourists counted, of which, according to official figures, 0.25 percent - 147 cases - tested positive were.
There were no deaths.
Corona seems to be far away on the island
In the meantime, the test in “Soneva Fushi” turned out negative, which means that the brief isolation is over and the island can be explored.
From first impressions there is nothing to suggest that the rest of the world is hit by a pandemic.
Although there is a disinfectant dispenser on every table, neither staff nor guests wear a mask, and the buffet is open for breakfast.
"We can handle it that way because everyone has been tested several times here," says General Manager Abhishek Sharma.
"We know that the guests all tested negative before they left, and when they arrive on the island they will be tested again."
Fresh air: dinner table on the beach on the hotel island "Soneva Fushi"
Source: Soneva Fushi Resort
The local staff have to go through two rounds of testing when they arrive on the island, and all other employees have three tests plus 14 days of quarantine.
This goes far beyond the country's official regulations and is due to considerations made during the lockdown.
While no tourists could enter the country, around 70 guests stayed on "Soneva Fushi" and sat out the first wave of corona, so to speak.
“They had considered that they could also do their home office from here,” says Sharma, “and we then asked ourselves how this relaxed atmosphere could be maintained after the lockdown had ended.” The answer: a test laboratory was needed!
Luxury and sustainability on "Soneva Fushi"
"Soneva Fushi" is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and has seen itself as a kind of pioneer from the start.
The hotel island was one of the first to bring luxury tourism to the Maldives, focusing on sustainability, producing its own drinking water and avoiding waste.
The idea of installing the first test laboratory fit in with the pioneering spirit, but implementation proved difficult.
"We called everywhere, but nobody wanted to sell to us," says Sharma.
"As soon as people realized that we were not a hospital, but a hotel, they just hung up."
So they teamed up with a local private clinic and organized the laboratory in Switzerland.
It has been in operation on a neighboring island since June and is now doing around 20 percent of all tests in the country.
A fever is measured every day in the hotels
“Como Cocoa Island” does not have its own laboratory, the hotel island would be too small for that.
It corresponds perfectly to the Maldives cliché: an island that actually only consists of a beach, with some greenery and a few buildings in the middle.
No matter where you stand, you can see the water everywhere, the guest villas were all built into the sea.
"Como Cocoa Island": The guest villas are here in the middle of the sea
Source: COMO Cocoa Island
Where should there be space for a laboratory?
Oscar Perez, General Manager of the five-star island, wants his guests to have quick tests instead.
Although this is associated with considerable costs, it is an investment in the future.
"I think it will take another year for the situation to return to normal."
Until then, the staff at “Como Cocoa” usually wears a mask, breakfast is offered à la carte, and more stringent hygiene measures apply in the spa.
All employees were in quarantine and have been tested;
once a day - as on every Maldivian hotel island - guests are measured for fever as they pass by.
If someone feels uncomfortable or there are abnormalities, a doctor from a neighboring island will come over quickly.
But what if a guest tests positive without developing any serious symptoms?
"Then he is quarantined for 14 days," says Perez, "which means for us that he has to stay in his villa." A house arrest deluxe.
He can still jump into the sea, sunbathe on his veranda and get room service around the clock, because the restaurant is of course taboo.
It goes without saying that he does not have to pay full price.
"The hotel islands are one of the safest places in the world"
It is similar on “Soneva Fushi”, here accommodation is free in the event of illness, only food and drinks have to be paid for.
Sonu Shivdasani, founder and owner of the hotel island, emphasizes that in the event of an infection, you would be provided with particularly healthy food.
Even for the regular guests, a bitter tea from the Kalmegh plant is offered in the morning, which is consumed with enthusiasm.
"It strengthens the immune system," says Shivdasani.
Perez considers the risk of infection to be extremely low.
"The hotel islands are currently one of the safest places in the world", you know exactly who comes and who goes, the number of people is manageable even when fully occupied: "Even then, the guests stay among themselves."
Dining in the green: Uninvited guests are not to be feared on “Soneva Fushi”
Source: Soneva Fushi Resort
There was only a slight accumulation of infections in the capital Malé, which tourists cannot currently visit.
The international airport is located on an offshore island, and as soon as you land, you will be met by a guide who will take you to the booked hotel island.
Tourism works like a closed system.
Stephanie Holweg, press spokeswoman for tourism at TUI, sees it similarly and adds: “The vacation islands are built in such a way that you can easily keep your distance.
The country is a travel destination for couples and families and not for people who want to party. ”TUI, which operates two Robinson Clubs and the“ Riu Palace Maldivas ”on the atolls, flies to the country despite the travel warning all guests are required to be provided with "Covid-Protect" travel protection.
Other travel health insurances do it too, of course, but you should inquire before departure whether they really work in the Corona case.
And also ask how long the insurance cover will last.
Because as Armando Kränzlin, General Manager of the Four Seasons Islands “Kuda Huraa”, “Landaa Giraavaru” and the private island “Voavah” says, guests have recently been staying longer.
The 5-star facility "Anantara Veli" even offers an annual rate for two guests for 30,000 dollars, which is incredibly cheap by Maldivian standards - which is why the offer is almost fully booked.
Airlines consider the flight to be harmless
So are the Maldives the dream destination to escape the unreasonable demands of the Corona winter?
The bottom line is that the concept works.
Unfortunately, there is still the flight between departure and arrival.
Although all airlines assure that the aircraft is the safest of all means of transport even in times of a pandemic, the idea of at least ten hours of flight time to get to the Maldives is not particularly tempting.
Since March you have been told every day that you should keep your distance from other people, but suddenly this recommendation no longer applies on the plane.
One can only hope that the plane is not fully booked.
And you have to rely on what, for example, Lufthansa writes on its homepage: "The risk of being infected during a flight is extremely low."
On the one hand, this may be due to the masks that you have to wear throughout the flight, but above all it is due to the high-performance air filters in the jets.
"All of the recirculation air is filtered and cleaned of impurities such as dust, bacteria and viruses from the cabin air," it continues.
"This affects around 40 percent - the rest comes in as fresh air from outside."
It's reassuring to know.
It is even more reassuring when, as with Qatar Airways, every passenger is given a visor that must be worn in addition to the mask for the entire flight.
Such a visor actually gives the feeling of keeping people sitting next to you at a distance.
This is valuable on the journey to keep paranoia in front of unknown people in check, and on the return journey to preserve the feeling of serenity that you have hopefully gained on one of the tiny islands in the Indian Ocean.
And then you sit in a full bus or wagon again in Germany and think that it might be appropriate to reconsider the travel warning, at least in the case of the Maldives.
Can we ever go on vacation again without fear of quarantine?
The hotels in Germany are still closed for tourist overnight stays, so holidays in Germany are hardly possible.
Alternatives in Europe and around the world are dwindling.
The tourism industry is desperately looking for strategies to survive.
Tips and information
At the beginning of the winter season, a number of airlines resumed flight operations to the Maldives, including Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Emirates, Austrian Airlines, Edelweiss Air and Etihad.
Requirements for entry:
Requirements for entry:
Holidaymakers need a certificate of a negative PCR test that is not older than 96 hours and proof of a hotel booking, and a health declaration from the immigration authorities must be completed online (imuga.immigration. Gov.mv/ethd/ create).
At Trauminsel Reisen, for example, you can
seven nights on “Soneva Fushi” for December with a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt including transfer and half board for two people for 18,600 euros.
“Como Cocoa Island” would cost 14,200 euros on the same terms.
In May, the tariffs are 12,960 and 7130 euros (trauminselreisen.de).
A night in a water villa with pool for two people on the “Four Seasons” island of Landaa Giraavu in December costs from 2170 euros (fourseasons.com).
TUI offers a week in the “Robinson Club Noonu” including a flight from Frankfurt and full board for two people from 4148 euros (tui.de).
FTI Touristik has two weeks in the “Lux South Ari Atoll Resort” from 5176 euros for two guests including flights and breakfast in its program (fti.de).
Guesthouses on the Local Islands as well as hotels in the capital Malé are still closed to tourists.
The Maldives has been declared a safe travel destination by the World Tourism Organization, Switzerland has removed the country from its risk list, as has Great Britain.
This page of the Maldivian Ministry of Health provides a precise overview, structured according to the respective atolls: covid19.health.gov.mv/en.
The Robert Koch Institute continues to run the Maldives as a risk area, which is why the Federal Foreign Office continues to issue a travel warning (Auswaertiges-amt.de).
This means that returning travelers have to be in quarantine - how long it lasts depends on the respective federal state.
Travel health insurance:
Travel health insurance:
Despite the travel warning, many insurers offer travel health insurance that is valid for the Maldives.
You should clarify directly with the insurer in advance whether Corona is covered.
Those who book with TUI automatically take out “Covid-Protect” insurance.
Source: WORLD infographic
Participation in the trip was supported by Trauminsel Reisen, Soneva Fushi and Como Cocoa Island. You can find our standards of transparency and journalistic independence at axelspringer.de/unabhaengigkeit.
Participation in the trip was supported by Trauminsel Reisen, Soneva Fushi and Como Cocoa Island.
You can find our standards of transparency and journalistic independence at axelspringer.de/unabhaengigkeit.
This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG. We will be happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.
This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG.
We will be happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.
Source: Welt am Sonntag