Bradley Calder is a New Zealander living and working in the Maldives.
OPINION: As a New Zealander living and working in the Maldives, I consider myself quite lucky to have spent the past four months on my deserted resort island.
I will most likely look back at this being some of my best time in the Maldives. We have a small team on island of security, engineering, chefs and some boat captains which enables us to continue to fish and dive. We have mostly been the only people diving in the Maldives as we have had access to the only operational hyperbaric chamber in the country.
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We have expanded our organic garden to grow more vegetables for the team on island, our banana trees and mango trees have been in fruit and the team have become quite adept fisherman, giving us fresh reef fish and tuna a couple of times a week. We were lucky enough not to have any Covid-19 cases prior to the lockdown of the Maldives and by virtue we have our own quarantine island and have not had to socially distance or wear masks.
It has been interesting to watch how the world has dealt with or tried to ignore the Covid-19 pandemic. I have watched with some envy how New Zealand has dealt with the pandemic and have returned to a life of normality, which the WHO says will never exist for most countries. Watching the restart of the Aotearoa Super Rugby competition streamed live to the Maldives with packed stadiums of enthusiastic crowds I find myself yearning to return home after some 21 years of expat life.
The Maldives had numerous cases in March of this year as tourists travelling to the Maldives brought the disease to the island archipelago. Thankfully cases were quickly isolated and infected people were removed to government facilities on independent islands. As of mid-March travel between islands was disallowed stopping the spread of the disease and to this day the majority of the 1192 islands remain Covid-19 free.
However due to the sheer density of the capital island Male, an outbreak there proved more difficult to contain and harsher lockdowns were needed to be put in place. Many migrant workers mainly from the construction sector were affected and repatriation flights were arranged by the Indian and Bangladesh governments.
The Maldives reopened on July 15. There is no test on arrival, no pre-travel test required and no restrictions of any countries. Tourism is the backbone of the Maldivian economy with the fishing industry a close second, there is no social welfare system in place and the government relies on the tourism industry to maintain the employment of the population.
With the reopening of the airport will come airfreight bringing in many needed supplies for the country and returning those people home who were not able to leave the country when the lockdown began in March.
We have our own anti-Covid-19 protocols including UVC light filtration for our undersea restaurant air-conditioner and to sterilise guest rooms. Thermal imaging cameras will discretely take the temperatures of our guests and our team and various measures are to be put in place through the sequence of guest service.
As we welcome our guests we find comfort in the fact that in the Maldives there is only one resort on each island so we are protected from potential outbreaks on others.
Additionally social distancing had already been a way of life for us with each guest staying in their own overwater or beach villa, our numerous restaurants already had tables two metres apart and being adults-only resorts people tend to enjoy their time to themselves.
We know that it will not be a complete return to the norm as New Zealand has enjoyed but we will struggle through the new normal and see how it plays out.
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