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Maldives court influencers in Covid-19

During the shutdown season, Georgia Steel carried out jet installations.

Ms. Steele, a digital influencer and reality TV star, left England in late December for Dubai, where she promoted lingerie from the Instagram of a luxury hotel. In January, she went to a resort in the Maldives, where spa treatments included body wraps wrapped in sweet basil and coconut powder.

Steele, 22, told her 1.6 million Instagram followers in a post that showed her wading in tropical waters in a bikini, “We are water drops.” It doesn’t matter, the number of Covid-1

9 cases in the UK and Maldives is on the rise, or England has just announced a third lockdown.

The Maldives is an island country off the coast of India. It not only tolerates tourists like Ms. Steele, but also urges them to come for sightseeing. Since the country reopened its borders last summer, 300,000 people have arrived, including dozens of internet celebrities, social media superstars, and their followers who usually pay for hawks. Many influential people are sought after by the government and go to exclusive resorts as paid intermediaries.

The government said that the opening strategy is an ideal choice for countries that rely on tourism. The geographical dispersion of the country (about 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean) contributes to social isolation. Official data show that since the border was reopened, less than 1% of visiting tourists have tested positive for the coronavirus.

“You never know what will happen tomorrow,” said Thoyyib Mohamed, managing director of the country’s official public relations agency. “But for the time being, I must say: This is a very good case study for the whole world, especially tropical destinations.”

The Maldives strategy carries epidemiological risks and emphasizes that distant resorts and the influencers they seek for help have become the highlight of the controversy.

With the arrival of people from all over the world, some influential people have made comments about fleeing to small towns or foreign countries and encouraging their followers to do so, which may endanger the locals and others in contact with their travels.

“So we just didn’t have a pandemic?” British administrator Beverly Cowell commented on Ms. Steele’s Instagram post and got many people to say that this type of traveller Circumventing the rules.

Francisco Femania Serra, a tourism expert at the University of Nebrija, Madrid, said that inviting influential people during the pandemic could damage the destination’s image.

He said: “The timing of the Maldives election campaign went wrong,” he pointed out that the campaign started before travelers could be vaccinated. “It’s closed. Now is not the time to do this.”

When the Maldives closed its borders to prevent the virus in March last year, its decision was not easy: the tourism industry employs more than 60,000 of the country’s 540,000 people, more than any other industry in the private sector. An academic in the Maldives recently wrote a government research report on the economic impact of the pandemic.

Said said: “After the tourism industry is closed, there will be no income in the country.” She added that many laid-off holidaymakers living in the capital Male are forced to move back home because they cannot afford it.

As health authorities work hard to contain local outbreaks, an adviser to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih developed a strategy to restore tourism as quickly as possible. One of the advantages is that most luxury resorts in the country are located on their own islands, which makes it easier to isolate and track contacts.

Mr. Soli’s spokesperson, Mohamed Mabrook Azeez, said: “We did plan this plan. We knew our strengths and it worked.”

When the Maldives reopened in July, health officials requested PCR testing and other safety procedures, but did not impose mandatory quarantine on tourists. Around the same time, the country’s public relations agency changed its international marketing activities and urged travelers to “rediscover” the Maldives.

The government and local businesses also invite influential people to stay in the resort and advertise them on social media. They did.

“When it is cloudy, it is sunshine!” American influencer Ana Cheri wrote a letter in a holiday resort in the Maldives in November, imposing a far-reaching blockade from her hometown of California. He has 12 million followers. American influencer. “Splash on the swing for the weekend!”

After initially agreeing to comment, Ms. Cheri did not respond to several emails. The publicist for the star Steel in the reality show “Love Island” did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Even before the pandemic, when their travel caused offense, the influencers met with strong opposition. For example, some posts about traveling in Saudi Arabia have been criticized because the country played a role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In particular, influencers from England have faced criticism in recent weeks for ignoring blockade rules that prohibit basic travel. Some defended travel, saying that travel is essential to their work, while others apologized under public pressure.

“I thought,’Oh, that’s legal, so it’s good.'” KT Franklin, an influential person, said in an apology video about her trip to the Maldives. “But it’s not good. It is indeed irresponsible, Lu and deaf.”

In late January, due to the surge in passenger traffic from Covid-19, the United Kingdom banned direct flights to and from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Emirati’s loose immigration regulations and everlasting sunshine make it a popular place for social media. But as the number of cases increased, officials closed bars and pubs for a month and restricted the capacity of hotels, shopping malls and beach clubs to 70%.

Maldivian officials have so far received nearly 150,000 tourists, and they said they have no plans to introduce similar restrictions.

The country has reported nearly 20,000 coronavirus infections, equivalent to 4% of its population, with 60 deaths. However, none of the resort clusters has provided widespread seeds for community transmission. Officials said the risk of doing so is low because if certain resort employees travel between islands, they must be isolated.

Dr. Nazla Rafeeg, head of infectious disease control at the Government Health Protection Agency, said: “In general, I think we are doing a good job.” “Our guidelines are in line with actual implementation.”

Many influencers and celebrities have faced reprimand from other social media users stranded at home. Instagram accounts are springing up like mushrooms, which shames visitors who seem to violate social distancing and masking rules abroad.

As a result, some influencers are reluctant to publish travel content during the pandemic, or at least comment on their posts because they don’t want to cause controversy.

Raidh Shaaz Waleed said that the counterattack against travel influencers was overestimated. His company arranged for Ms. Steel, Ms. Cheri and more than 30 other influencers to visit the Maldives through an event called the FOMO Project or Fear of Missing . He said that no visitors were invited to test positive for the coronavirus.

He said: “If you consider safety guidelines, you can still have fun during social evacuations.”

Not everyone has his optimism.

Cowell, an English administrator, commented on Stephen Steel’s article “We are dripping water” in the Maldives. He stated in an email that it would be irresponsible to promote such travel during England’s third blockade.

She added that the position was particularly difficult to apply because it appeared on the day she learned that her grandmother living in a nursing home had contracted the virus.

Ms. Cowell, 22, said: “This is not about removing them or creating an unfavorable environment online,” they laughed at the influencers of the blockade rules, “but make sure we don’t put celebrities on the pedestal where they feel invincible. They can do what they like.”

Taylor Lorenz contributed the report.

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