What Will Be the New Normal for Maldivian Offices?

After two weeks of lockdown in the Greater Male’ Area and several cautious precautions in several islands, the Maldivian economy is ready to relaunch again as President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announces eases in COVID-19 restrictions.

Addressing to the nation, the president of Maldives had announced that after the expiration of lockdown, COVID-19 restrictions will be gradually eased, which means non-essential businesses can reopen. 

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Several businesses have been offering delivery services while employing enhanced safety procedures like extra disinfection. Most businesses are reopening their doors with additional safety measures to minimize risks of exposure to the coronavirus.

President of Guesthouse Association of Maldives, Moosa Nasih said “There is no reason to delay reopening of businesses. It is time to slowly start the operations”

Velana International Airport increases the precautionary measures taken to ensure the safety of passengers and staffs. In preparation for the reopening of tourism industry, MACL’s General Manager Hassan Areef said that all precautionary measures are now put in place to open the airport.

Bright floor markings are made, three feet apart from each other in possible passenger congestion areas. This includes ticketing and check-in counters, and the pre-flight inspection zone in the international terminal at the airport.

Four feet tall glass sheet separators are placed between counters were installed to strengthen the protective measures against the virus. Areef said hygienic measures would also be intensified across the airport.

Like the Airport, Printlab has been continuously working to provide the necessary prints and materials required by the authorities.

“Almost 70% of our staff is actively working in the frontline” Madeeh Jamal, Managing Director of Printlab has said.

Printlab produces transparent shields that are used in their customer service counters as well.  Masks and gloves are provided for all staffs while disinfection processes are carried out at the beginning of office hours and after as well, Madheeh said. Printlab also invented and installed a disinfection booth for their staffs and customers, Madeeh revealed.

“We will continue to take these measures when the lockdown expires and in the “new normal”,” he said.

An official of Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA), said that they are taking steps to reopen the office. Waiting areas are equipped with sanitizers and adhere to social distancing guidelines. Most importantly, we are working on revising due dates for tasks to minimize the staffs that will have to report to the office at a particular time he said.

“All tax applications and the majority of MIRA’s services are available online. Even after lockdown eases, we encourage the use of online services to curb the spread of COVID-19,” he said.

Moosa Nasih, president of Guesthouse Association of Maldives and owner of UI hotels said that he had relocated their staff to the UI building. During the past 2 months’ sales calls were carried out and the company had taken the opportunity to renovate and provide training for their staffs.

He said several procedures will be carried out to maintain social distancing and safety. Disinfection booths have been installed and masks, as well as sanitizers, are made available for staffs in their workstation.

Staff break room has also been moved to a more spacious place as to practice distance of 3ft at all times Nasih had said.

From the hotel side, Nasih highlighted the introduction of a self-check-in system. The system was tested by Police and MNDF during their stay at the hotel, Nasih had said. A QR scan will be provided at the reception, scanning which guests will be redirected to a registration form. According to Nasih, using this system, guests will be able to safely order food, book excursions as well as manage laundry services.

“The introduction of his system is to minimize contact during the guest’s stay and ensure the safety of staff and guests,” Nasih said.

Irufaau Abdulla, Assistant General Manager of Veligaa Hardware has said in order to ensure the safety of their staff, they are providing order pick-up services and halted deliveries. “Depending on the guidelines issued by the authorities, we will make changes like providing masks and flexibility in office hours,” he has said.

A business professional had said that offices should be opening slowly and progressively as keeping the offices closed for too long is not feasible.

Authorities continue to advise the public to take necessary precautions and is soon to release a guideline to curb the spread of COVID-19 while returning to offices and experience the “new normal”.

Government spokesperson Mabrook Abdul Azeez suggested office hours to be carried out in shifts.  He said that there are several cautious steps offices can take in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Even though offices reopen, he advised offices to allow staff to work remotely from home.

Staffs that are required to go to offices should be cautious when using a bathroom shared by all and breakrooms Mabrook advised.

Maldivians have followed the advice of authorities and flattened the curve. The transition to re-opening the economy may be bumpy but we are already moving forward. We all feel the urgency, particularly those looking for work or whose businesses are barely hanging on.

We all share the same goals: to have a safe and healthy community and to ensure that local businesses can re-open to provide jobs, income, and to serve the public.

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