Fed up with waiting for your vaccine? Well, now you can enjoy a well-deserved holiday in a tropical paradise, and get yourself protected from COVID at the same time! The island hotspot that is the Maldives is now opening itself to tourists for a ‘vaxcation’, where they can soak up some sun and get vaccinated too.
Maldives dives into vaccine tourism
Visiting faraway countries for medical reasons is nothing new, but usually, this is for cosmetic procedures that can be cheaper abroad than at home. But now, the Maldives has taken this concept a step further by offering visitors the chance to get vaccinated when they take a holiday to the island paradise.
The tourism minister for the archipelago, Abdulla Mausoom, has coined the initiative the 3V project, inviting travelers to ‘visit, vaccinate and vacation.’ Speaking to CNBC, Mausoom said he hoped it would create a ‘more convenient’ way to visit the country. Visitors currently have to undertake a PCR test and present proof of their hotel booking to enter the country.
The Maldives is incredibly dependent on tourism, with some 1.7 million visitors a year usually arriving on its shores. Indeed, a massive 67% of the country’s GDP comes from the travel industry, so it’s critical for the nation to get people coming back as swiftly as possible.
At present, Mausoom can’t give a firm date for the start of the ‘3V’ program but said to CNBC that he hopes the country’s Health Protection Agency will make an announcement pretty soon. Alongside offering vaccinations at the border, Maldives will soon begin allowing restriction-free travel to those who have had both doses of the vaccine.
Local population comes first
While the idea of a ‘vaxcation’ may be appealing for some, particularly those who are a way down their country’s priority list, there’s still a little waiting to do. Maldives plans to focus on getting both doses of the vaccine to all its own people first, but Mausoom doesn’t think that will take too long.
Already, around 53% of the approximately 530,000 residents have received their first dose, which includes 90% of those working on the front line and in tourism. The government will wait until the entire population has received its first and second shot before opening to vaccine tourism.
It’s not clear at this stage whether tourists will be expected to pay for their shots, but Masoom doesn’t think that supply will be an issue. He noted that the country has already received donations of vaccines from China, India and the Covax scheme, as well as having ordered its own supply from Singapore. He told CNBC,
“I don’t think supply’s a problem in Maldives because our population is relatively small. The quota we get from the various organizations and friendly nations also will help.”
While Maldives is under no illusion that it will be far short of its usual visitor numbers, it hopes that it will reach a target of 1.5 million tourists by the end of the year. The ‘vaxcation’ is a key step in achieving that goal.