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Chinese consulate in Houston was a ‘den of spies’, says Mike Pompeo – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-07-31 08:02:00
Mike Pompeo

WASHINGTON :
The Chinese Consulate in Houston was a “den of spies”, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo said on Thursday (local time) amid the downward spiral in US-China ties.

Pompeo, while addressing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stated that “we closed” Houston consulate “because it was a den of spies.”

The US had recently ordered China to close its Consulate General in Houston. In retaliation, China ordered US to close its diplomatic facility in Chengdu.

US State Department ordered China to close by Friday its consulate in Houston, Texas, over accusations that it engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations in the US.

The two countries have sparred over a range of issues in recent times — China’s move to impose national security law in Hong Kong, its human rights violation in Xinjiang and territorial aggression in the South China Sea have all drawn fierce criticism from Washington.

Terming China’s ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as “central threat of our times”, Pompeo said: “Our vigorous diplomacy has helped lead an international awakening to the threat of the CCP. Senators, the tide is turning.”

The US Secretary of State also talked of China’s move to impose draconian national security law in Hong Kong, which is said to be aimed at crushing dissent in the erstwhile British colony which saw massive protests last year.

“In our hemisphere, Canada has stood firm against the Chinese Communist Party’s hostage-taking. Its three major telecom carriers have also banned untrusted vendors,” he said.

“Belize and Haiti have denounced Beijing’s national security law targeting Hong Kong. Denmark has rejected the CCP’s attempted censorship of Danish newspapers. Sweden has closed its Confucius Institutes. Lithuanian intelligence services have identified China as a political – a potential threat for the first time,” he added.

Further, the US Secretary of State also noted that in the Indo-Pacific, “Australia declared China’s South China Sea claims unlawful and illegitimate, as have we.”

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US coronavirus deaths top 150,000 as economy suffers further – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-07-30 09:37:00
Coronavirus

The increase of 10,000 deaths over the last 11 days is the fastest in the United States since early June, prompting heated debates between the American public and its leaders over the best course forward.

Commercial pilot Rob Koreman of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said he had been stunned by the climbing numbers.

“I’m a pilot and hit so many cities, so many people on board, I have to be aware,” said Koreman, 50. “Basically, none of this should have happened. We needed state coordination, if not flat-out a federal mandate.”

Florida, an epicenter of the pandemic in recent weeks, reported another record in one-day deaths on Wednesday, 217, according to state health officials.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools, among the largest school system in the nation, announced on Wednesday that students would start the fall term remotely, rather than with in-person learning.

“In light of viral surge in our community, it’s in the best interest of students and employees to commence the 20-21 school year at a distance,” the system said on Twitter. The school year is set to start August 31.

The Miami Herald newspaper reported that the school district will decide in late September if classes can resume October 5.

With the scheduled reopening of schools days away in some states, U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed for students to return to class while teacher unions and local officials have called for them to stay home.

NEW ECONOMIC DAMAGE

The pace of coronavirus infections has accelerated since late May and the epicenter has moved to the South and West from New York, which still has by far the highest number of fatalities of any U.S. state at more than 32,000.

Arkansas, California, Florida, Montana, Oregon and Texas each reported record spikes in fatalities on Tuesday.

The surge has hampered efforts to recover from an economic crisis brought on by stay-at-home orders and business closures that have devastated the economy and thrown millions of Americans out of work.

“We have seen some signs in recent weeks that the increase in virus cases and the renewed measures to control it are starting to weigh on economic activity,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said at a news conference following release of the U.S. central bank’s latest policy statement.

Many health experts say the U.S. outbreak could be brought under greater control if guidelines to maintain social distancing and wear masks in public were enforced nationwide.

Trump has rejected the idea of a federal mask order and was initially reluctant to be seen wearing one. Trump has since come around to supporting masks but has not imposed a national mandate.

Louie Gohmert, a Republican lawmaker from Texas who has at times refused to wear a mask, tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, raising concerns that other members of Congress may also have been exposed.

Officials in New Jersey, the state with the second-highest death toll, again pleaded with young people to avoid large gatherings.

“Coronavirus is more easily transmitted indoors. Crowded indoor house parties are not smart or safe,” Governor Phil Murphy wrote on Twitter.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicted in March that the pandemic could kill more than 81,000 people by July.

In its latest statement on July 14, the IHME said its model now projects the U.S. death toll at more than 224,000 by Nov. 1, although the institute added that many fatalities could be avoided by preventative measures such as masks and social distancing.

(Reporting by Lisa Shumaker, Rich McKay, Tim Ahmann, Maria Caspani, Susan Heavey and Dan Whitcomb; Writing by Sonya Hepinstall and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Howard Goller and Cynthia Osterman)

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Water wars: Mekong River another front in US-China rivalry – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-07-24 13:29:00
Mekong River

It’s a confrontation in which the Trump administration – which has largely maintained funding for an Obama-era environmental and development programmes in the Lower Mekong – is losing ground.

The two powers’ struggle recently moved into the realm of science – with the U.S. and Chinese governments each touting different reports about whether China’s 11 dams on the river were harming nations downstream.

China’s dams have given it extensive control of the waters that flow down to Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, which have long depended on the river for agriculture, fisheries, and increasingly for hydropower in Laos.

That control enables China to set the agenda for development linked to the waterway, and to exclude the United States from a role after decades of promoting Mekong projects as a way to exert its influence in the region.

“This is becoming a geopolitical issue, much like the South China Sea, between the United States and China,” said Witoon Permpongsacharoen of the group Mekong Energy and Ecology Network.

The state of the Mekong is an urgent worry for the 60 million people who depend on it for farming and fishing as it flows from China, where it is known as the Lancang, through Southeast Asia before emptying into the sea from Vietnam’s delta.

Last year saw record drought, with Lower Mekong river levels the lowest in decades. Fewer and smaller fish catches have been reported for years.

A U.S. ambassador in the region described China as “hoarding” water in its 11 dams on its upper portion of the 4,350-km (2,700-mile) river, harming the livelihoods of millions of people in downstream countries.

China also has been stepping up activities of its Lancang Mekong Cooperation group (LMC), a relatively new intergovernmental body that a second U.S. ambassador decried as trying to “sideline” the 25-year-old Mekong River Commission (MRC).

The MRC traces its origins back to U.S. efforts to promote development during the Cold War. It works with the governments of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to foster the sharing and sustainable development of the river and its resources.

China’s foreign ministry told Reuters any U.S. suggestion that Beijing was trying to take over the Mekong conversation was groundless.

“Countries outside the region should refrain from stirring up trouble out of nothing,” the ministry said.

‘ILL INTENT’

The U.S.-China rivalry broke into a war of words after a Washington-funded study in April concluded that China’s dams held back waters during last year’s drought.

The study by Eyes on Earth, a U.S.-based research and consulting company specialising in water, built a prediction model based on satellite imaging and MRC data that it said showed “missing” waters downstream, starting in around 2010.

U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy said he was “quite surprised” at the stark findings.

“That was the same here in the region,” Murphy told Reuters, referring to the reaction to the revelation.

“To learn that a primary source for the diminished level of the Mekong, and changes in the Mekong in the Lower Mekong region, is what’s happening upstream in China – with essentially the hoarding of water,” Murphy said.

China reacted with outrage, with its embassy in Thailand denouncing the study as “politically motivated, aimed at targeting China with ill intent” – a charge its author and U.S. officials denied.

Then, last week, China’s Global Times published an article about a Chinese study it characterized as disproving the Eyes on Earth report.

“River dams in China helped alleviate drought along Lancang-Mekong, research finds,” read the headline in the newspaper published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party.

However, the study by Tsinghua University and the China Institute of Water Resources in fact said China’s dams could, in future, help alleviate drought, not that they actually did so in 2019, according to a copy obtained by Reuters.

“We are not meaning to compare with any other report. We aim to provide some basic facts to facilitate mutual understanding, trust and therefore cooperation in the basin,” lead researcher Tian Fuqiang told Reuters in an email.

Researchers will argue about the science, but for the Lower Mekong countries, it comes down to trust and power.

Sebastian Strangio, author of a book on Southeast Asia’s relations with China, “In the Dragon’s Shadow”, said China’s downstream neighbours almost certainly trust China’s narrative less – but Beijing’s regional might can’t be ignored.

“They rely on China now for a life-giving resource, and it’s very difficult for them to openly challenge the Chinese government on its dam building,” Strangio said.

Reluctant to take sides, none of the MRC countries has commented publicly in favour of either the Chinese or American study.

SEPARATE COOPERATION GROUPS

The United States has spent $120 million on its Lower Mekong Initiative since it was founded 11 years ago.

China appears to be spending more: in 2016, the Beijing-sponsored LMC set up a $300 million fund for research grants to be awarded for the five downstream countries.

The LMC did not respond to requests for an interview nor to questions about its 95 proposed projects, planned or underway, that are on a list reviewed by Reuters from its first Ministerial Meeting in Beijing in December.

The Chinese-led group is taking a higher profile with an annual foreign ministers’ meeting and plans for a summit of leaders, possibly including Chinese President Xi Jinping, while less heavy-hitting water and environment officials typically go to MRC meetings, a Thai government official said.

The LMC drew criticism from the U.S. ambassador to Thailand, Michael DeSombre, who called it a “parallel organisation” to the MRC.

“We really would encourage the People’s Republic of China to work together with the Mekong River Commission, rather than trying to sideline it by creating its own organisation that it controls,” DeSombre said.

Despite the U.S. warnings, officials at the Mekong River Commission say it welcomes cooperation with the LMC and China.

One reason is that the commission and member governments want more data about operations of China’s dams, which hold back a combined capacity 47 billion cubic metres of water.

In 2002, Beijing started notifying downstream countries of when it would release water that could cause flooding.

But China has disclosed little else to enable downstream countries to make plans and request adjustments in the river’s flows.

China, at a February meeting of the LMC, promised more cooperation with its neighbours, but when speaking privately, regional officials are sceptical.

“China hasn’t shared any constructive data,” said a Vietnamese official who declined to be identified.

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US intercepts Iranian passenger plane over Syria – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-07-24 12:58:00
Syria

The US said Thursday it had intercepted an Iranian passenger plane as it flew over Syria, after Iranian state television accused Israel of being behind the encounter.

US Central Command, which oversees US operations in the Middle East, said an “F-15 on a routine air mission… conducted a standard visual inspection of a Mahan Air passenger airliner at a safe distance of approximately 1,000 meters from the airliner.”

“Once the F-15 pilot identified the aircraft as a Mahan Air passenger plane, the F-15 safely opened distance from the aircraft,” Centcom said.

It added: “The professional intercept was conducted in accordance with international standards.”

The US statement came after IRIB television channel aired amateur footage of passengers on board screaming as the Mahan Air jetliner appeared to change course suddenly.

Another video apparently shot on a phone appeared to show at least two fighter jets flying beside the plane.

“While the (Iranian) plane was in the sky over Syria, the Zionist regime fighter jet approached the Mahan Airlines plane,” IRIB’s website reported.

“After this dangerous action by the Israeli fighter, the pilot of the commercial plane quickly reduced the altitude of the flight to avoid colliding with the Israeli fighter, injuring several passengers on board.”

The IRIB report called the incident “provocative and dangerous.”

Syrian television and the official SANA news agency, quoting civil aviation sources, said that “planes believed to belong to the US-led coalition intercepted a civilian Iranian airplane in Syrian airspace in the Tanaf region, which forced the captain to undertake a sharp drop that led to light injuries among passengers.”

The plane, which had been en route from Tehran, continued on to Beirut as scheduled after the incident, the sources added.

Israel has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the country’s civil war in 2011.

It has targeted Syrian government troops, allegedly allied Iranian forces and fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah, claiming its goal is to end Tehran’s military presence in Syria.

It rarely confirms details of its operations in Syria.

The nine-year-old conflict in Syria has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced more than half of the country’s pre-war population.

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China tells US to close consulate in Chengdu in growing spat – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-07-24 09:51:00
USA

BEIJING :
China on Friday ordered the United States to close its consulate in the western city of Chengdu in an increasingly rancorous diplomatic conflict.

The order followed the U.S. closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston.

The Chinese foreign ministry appealed to Washington to reverse its “erroneous decision.”

The Trump administration on Tuesday ordered the Houston consulate closed within 72 hours. It alleged Chinese agents tried to steal data from facilities in Texas including the Texas A&M medical system.

The United States has an embassy in Beijing and consulates in five other mainland cities — Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shenyang and Wuhan. It also has a consulate in Hong Kong, a Chinese territory.

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India to store crude oil in US – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-07-19 12:59:00
Crude Oil

India and the US on July 17 signed a preliminary agreement for cooperating on emergency crude oil reserves, including the possibility of India storing oil in the US emergency stockpile.

“It is a good concept but comes with a lot of riders,” a senior government official said.

For one, India will have to pay a rental for hiring the storages in the US. This rental will be on top of the international price for oil.

“The alternative is to build our own strategic reserves which will involve huge capital cost and will take a few years to construct. So the rental is a small fee to pay to get immediate access to a strategic reserve,” the official said.

Strategic petroleum reserves (SPR) in the US are built and maintained by private companies.

The oil stored in the US reserves can be used for the nation’s own needs or can be traded to capture price advantage, he said adding these two scenarios work when oil prices rise after India has bought and stored oil in US reserves.

“But if the prices fall, you will book losses,” he said.

Also, if the sea route is obstructed, having a stockpile in the US will make no difference to India’s energy security as the country will not be able to access them, he said. “It takes a month to ship oil from the US.”

Storing oil in the US is a kind of physical hedging and all hedging comes with a cost, he said.

More importantly, storing large volumes involves paying upfront on purchase of crude oil and companies will have to block so much capital.

India had begun exploring the possibility of storing oil in the US a few months back but couldn’t make much headway as COVID-19 pummelled demand, leading to excess oil around the globe that filled every inch of storage including those on ships.

Demand is returned but is less than pre-Covid levels. 

In such a scenario, storing oil in the US would make a lot of sense if India were to hire a strategic facility maintained by an American oil producer.

“The commercial deal can be structured in such a way that we support the US firm to keep producing even when demand falls, and in return get access to its storage,” the official said.

On July 17, India and US signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that will allow the US to begin sharing with India the knowhow on establishment of a strategic petroleum reserve (SPR). The pact also allows India to explore the possibility of storing its oil in US SPR, comprising underground caverns in Texas and Louisiana.

US President Donald Trump in March ordered filling the SPR to its full capacity of about 714 million barrels but Congress failed to fund a purchase.

Speaking to reporters after signing of the MoU, US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette had stated that the India pact could mirror a recent plan with Australia, which in April committed to spending about USD 60 million to build an emergency oil stockpile, first by buying crude to store in the US SPR.

Global oil prices fell steeply earlier this year as shutdowns from the novel coronavirus sapped demand, but have stabilised at around USD 43 a barrel.

“We are in an advanced stage of discussions for storing crude oil US strategic petroleum reserves to increase India’s strategic oil stockpile,” Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had said on Friday after co-chairing the second India-US Strategic Energy Partnership Ministerial with Brouillette.

The US has 714 million barrels of oil storage capacity in its strategic petroleum reserve, the world’s largest supply of emergency crude oil.

In comparison, India stores 5.33 million tonnes (about 38 million barrels) of crude oil in underground storages at three locations on the east and west coast, hardly enough to meet its 9.5 days needs.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) prescribes its members to have at least 90 days of stock in the strategic reserves.

India has been looking to expand the storage capacity by another 6.5 million tonnes and is also exploring the possibility of hiring storage in the US to stock some oil that can be used in times of extreme price volatility or supply disruption.

India is the fourth-largest export destination for US crude. 

“Between 2017 and last year, US crude oil exports to India rose by nearly 10-folds to almost 2,50,000 barrels per day. Between March 2016 and May of this year, 68 LNG shipments of over 234 billion cubic feet were exported to India,” Brouillette had said on Friday.

The US is India’s sixth-largest oil supplier.

India began importing crude oil from the US in 2017 as it looked to diversify its import basket beyond the OPEC nations. It bought 1.9 million tonnes (38,000 bpd) of crude oil from the US in 2017-18 and another 6.2 million tonnes (1,24,000 bpd) in 2018-19.

The volume that Brouillette talked about translates into 12.5 million tonnes of oil imports in a year.

India, which is 85 per cent dependent on imports to meet its oil needs, bought 101.4 million tonnes of crude oil from overseas during April 2019 to March 2020.

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US coronavirus deaths surpass 140,000 as outbreak worsens – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-07-19 08:56:00
Coronavirus

U.S. deaths from the novel coronavirus exceeded 140,000 on Saturday as cases continued to rise in 43 out of 50 states over the past two weeks, according to a Reuters tally.

Since late June, the United States has seen a resurgence in new cases and now, six weeks later, deaths have also begun rising, according to a weekly Reuters analysis of state and county data.

America is losing about 5,000 people to the virus every week. By contrast, neighboring Canada has reported total deaths of 8,800 since the pandemic started.

In just one week, the United States records about as many deaths as the 5,600 lives Sweden has lost since the pandemic began earlier this year.

In the hardest-hit U.S. counties, officials are running out of places to store bodies as their morgues fill up.

Arizona’s Maricopa County, home to the state’s largest city, Phoenix, is bringing in 14 coolers to hold up to 280 bodies and more than double morgue capacity ahead of an expected surge in coronavirus fatalities, officials said on Thursday.

In Texas, the city of San Antonio and Bexar County have acquired five refrigerated trailers to store up to 180 bodies.

The appearance of such mobile morgues has fed the sense in some Southern states that the pandemic appears to be spinning out of control.

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Hyperlink InfoSystem rank among top 10 app development companies in the US – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-07-17 17:11:00

Nowadays people use their Smartphones to get things done in their daily routine life. Smartphone apps are helping people to live their life in a hassle-free way. From ordering food to buy groceries and booking a cab to movie tickets, everything made using mobile apps. With the increased use of the latest technologies, the demand for mobile apps is raised effectively.

Startups to Enterprise level businesses are planning to have mobile apps in their strategy to grow. Owning mobile apps for business will help them to reach their targeted audience at any time and anywhere that will increase sales and achieve business goals in the end. Even Research and Marketing firms expect the market value of Mobile Apps will reach $407.31 Billion By 2026.

In this current situation, Mobile Apps are helping people to navigate this pandemic as people install more apps during the first and second quarter of 2020. As per the report, mobile apps earn more than $50 Billion due to COVID-19. After seeing such huge growth in the app development industry, “N” numbers of companies are working from several years and new startups founded claiming best service providers in the industry. There are lots of businesses looking for a trusted app development partner in the USA but failed to find the best for their requirements. To help these businesses, there are many B2B platforms available that offer verified client reviews and provide a list of trusted IT Companies around the world.

One of the most popular B2B Rating and Review platforms, Clutch.co made some deep research on IT Companies and created the list of popular service providers around the world. They collect verified reviews and ratings from clients and also provide details like hourly rates, project size, employees’ strength, and even contains the details of their portfolio for IT companies. This platform mentioned Hyperlink InfoSystem as one of the Top 10 App Development Companies in 2020 based on its presence in the USA and around the world.

Hyperlink InfoSystem is a well-known App Development Company based in India and USA. Since 2011, Hyperlink InfoSystem worked with 2300+ clients around the world including brands like Disney, Cartoon Network, Papa John’s, and many more. Headquartered at Ahmedabad, India, the sales office of the company is in New York, USA, and UAE. With 8+ years of experience in the industry, Hyperlink InfoSystem developed 3200+ apps and designed 1600+ websites using the latest technologies.

The company offers services like web and app development, AI, IoT solutions, Blockchain Development, AR/VR apps, BI Services, Salesforce development, CRM Solutions, custom software development, Data Science for almost all industries. They have a team of 250+ highly skilled developers who are capable enough to deliver any most complex digital solutions. Their team exhibited their services in CES 2020 at Las Vegas, NV, and also in MWC Americas in Los Angeles, CA. After being ranked as one of the Top 10 App Developers in USA, Hyperlink InfoSystem is looking forward to work with more businesses and deliver the best solutions in the industry.

Disclaimer: This content is released by Digpu News Network. No HT journalist was involved in the creation of this content.

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Study explains why memories attached to emotions are so strong – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-07-14 20:15:00
Study

NEW YORK :
Memories linked with strong emotions often become seared in the brain, according to a recent study.

“It makes sense we don’t remember everything,” said Rene Hen, PhD, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

“We have limited brainpower. We only need to remember what’s important for our future wellbeing,” Hen added.

Fear, in this context, is not just a momentary feeling but a learning experience critical to our survival. When a new situation makes us fearful, the brain records the details in our neurons to help us avoid similar situations in the future, or use appropriate caution.

What’s still a mystery is why these memories, recorded by the brain’s hippocampus, become so strong.

To find out, Hen and Jessica Jimenez, an MD/PhD student at Columbia, placed mice into new, frightening environments and recorded the activity of hippocampal neurons that reach out to the brain’s fear center (the amygdala).

The neurons’ activity was also recorded a day later when the mice tried to retrieve memories of the experience.

Unsurprisingly, neurons that respond to the frightening environment send that information to the brain’s fear center.

“What was surprising was that these neurons were synchronized when the mouse later recalled the memory,” Hen said.

“We saw that it’s the synchrony that is critical to establish the fear memory, and the greater the synchrony, the stronger the memory. These are the types of mechanisms that explain why you remember salient events,” Jimenez added.

How and when synchronisation occurs is still unknown, but the answer could reveal the inner workings of the brain that create lifelong memories and lead to new treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder.

“In people with PTSD, many similar events remind them of the original frightening situation, and it’s possible that synchronization of their neurons has become too strong,” Hen said.

“We’re really trying to dig into the mechanisms of how emotional memories form to find better treatments for people with PTSD and memory disorders in general,” Hen noted.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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The Maldives is reopening and, yes, even Americans are allowed – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-07-10 12:46:00
Maldives

And, yes, that includes U.S. citizens.

The picturesque chain of almost 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean has a remote location that lends itself naturally to social distancing, with luxury accommodations focused on private overwater bungalows and much of the activity outdoors as well—all fortunate factors for the economy of the 400,000-person country that’s heavily dependent on tourism.

International visitors will be allowed only on resort islands and live-aboard boats as of July 15; on Aug. 1, guest houses and hotels on inhabited islands will be allowed to reopen. Of course, that comes with the big caveat that you still have to get there and then get back.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that anyone traveling on an airplane is at increased risk of contracting Covid-19 because of close contact with others at airports and on flights themselves. The CDC also advises anyone returning to America from another country to stay home for 14 days, avoid contact with others, and monitor for symptoms such as a fever or cough. Conversely, there’s the increased risk of bringing the virus abroad, as cases trend upward in the U.S.

In other words: Visiting is no small affair. Nor is it cheap. Because almost every resort in the Maldives is its own private island, many luxury hotels charge upwards of $1,500 a night. (Spending twice that much is hardly unheard of.) And that’s before seaplane or speed boat transfers, which can run a hundreds of dollars round trip.

Smoothing the Process

Still, the Maldives is trying to make it relatively easy, at least on its end.

“Tourists are not required to pay an additional fee, produce a certificate or test result indicative of negative status for Covid-19 prior to entry into Maldives. For tourists without symptoms, there is no requirement for quarantine either,” according to an announcement from the Maldives Marketing & PR Corp.

Any tourist who does show Covid-19 symptoms will have to pay for a test, the statement cautioned, adding that people with visible symptoms or those with a history of contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case “are advised not to travel to Maldives.”

The Maldives has been working toward the reopening for weeks. The impact of the pandemic on the tourism sector has ranked up there with the 2004 tsunami and the global financial crisis.

Those who do venture to the archipelago will have some choice. By the end of the month, more than 40 resorts out of a total of about 150 properties are expected to be operational, according to the Maldives’ Ministry of Tourism. The Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru and Soneva Fushi are already open, and the One & Only Reethi Rah will open on July 24, and Milaidhoo Island is slated for an Aug. 1 opening, a list from the ministry showed.

Many resorts are waiting a bit longer, though—and peak season is from around December to March, anyway. That’s when skies are clearest and tropical temperatures fall to more moderate levels. Almost 50 of the resorts on the country’s list are planning to open around Oct. 1. Como Maalifushi says it will get going again in mid-November.

Safety Protocols

The islands’ resorts and accommodations are taking all recommended precautions, a Maldives spokesperson says, and properties have implemented new cleanliness and hygiene protocols to ensure that guests will be safe.

Some of those protocols fall on the more basic side. The Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru says it has an arrival procedure that involves a temperature screening and questions about recent travel history. 

At the Angsana Velavaru Maldives resort, all public areas and back-of-house areas are sanitized on an hourly basis, and rooms are deep-cleaned and disinfected with virus-specific protocols, the website says. Temperature checks are mandatory at the spa.

Soneva is taking a stricter approach at its two Maldives resorts, Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi. Sanitizing luggage before passengers even arrive, requiring a real-time PCR Covid-19 test upon arrival (it has invested in a Roche Diagnostics Corp. testing machine), and taking temperatures every day are all part of the process now, according to the company’s website. There’s another Covid-19 test on the fifth day of the stay. Soneva says its “hosts,” or staff, are tested every five days, and all materials and produce that are coming onto the islands will undergo cleaning and sanitation procedures first.

“Although this could be considered as being slightly excessive or overcautious, both Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani are ‘One Island, One Resort’; it is our goal to make our private island homes Covid-19 free environments, so that all of our guests can truly relax and engage with our Hosts and fellow travelers and not feel any concern about a risk of infection,” the site declares.

If you come up positive, the resorts will still take care of you, with attention from a medical team as you isolate in your villa, and Soneva waiving the daily room rate for the next 14 days. (The value of that stay, in one of Soneva Jani’s currently-discounted entry-level rooms: $37,723.)

If any guest needs to be hospitalized, the Maldives has built up sufficient hospital and medical capacity to treat Covid-19 effectively, the website says, noting that the hospital on a neighboring island, only 10 minutes away by speedboat, has a new ICU unit with 20 beds.

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