Stranded within the Maldives by Coronavirus Journey Restrictions


Indian Ocean, like a trace of shattered crystals scattered on a blue glass plate. For years, the subject of fantasy photos spread in glossy magazines with luxurious bungalows on stilts in unreal aquamarine water. It was an obvious choice for your romantic getaway.

The couple just arrived married from South Africa, where they arrived are citizens who plan to stay six days on Sunday March 22nd. For a 27-year-old teacher and a 28-year-old butcher, the vacation was "an extravagance," said Ms. De Freitas. But since they hadn't lived together before the vows were exchanged, this would be a short bang for the start of their marriage.

Still, they had some concerns about the trip, given the increasing travel restrictions imposed in the light of the new coronavirus outbreak around the world. However, nothing specific was announced that would affect them, and their travel agent assured them that all South African citizens could return home regardless of the upcoming policy. Go ahead and have a great time, they were told.

On Wednesday they received the news that all of their country's airports would be closed by midnight on Thursday. The return flights to South Africa take five hours to Doha, Qatar, three hours and then nine hours to Johannesburg. Even if they could get mixed up and get a flight, they ensured the complexity of leaving their remote island. I would never make it home in time.

Since much of the world quickly came to a standstill, the few other guests who were at the resort last week fled to their respective countries. The last Americans to leave had to get permission to fly to Russia before returning to the United States.

The couple considered taking a speedboat to the main island for an hour and a half and are trying their luck at the airport. But at about the same time, the Maldives had announced their own ban to ban new foreign travelers. If you leave the resort you may not be allowed to re-enter. So they stayed.

Mr. De Freitas, who was described by his wife as the calm one, accepted the strange turn of events. All of this would be resolved, and they were also in paradise. Ms. De Freitas, of course, shared some of her husband's joy, but felt that a logistical nightmare worthy of Kafkas was imminent.

They turned to the South African consulate in the Maldives and to the nearest South African embassy in Sri Lanka for help. A representative informed them via WhatsApp that around 40 other South Africans were spread across the Maldives and that their option was to rent a chartered jet for $ 104,000 at their own expense.

Anyone could, the message said, but the government had only contacted about half of the 40 people. Of these 20, many were unable or unable to pay. The fewer people on board, the more expensive each share becomes. Nevertheless, the flight has not yet been approved after several days of talks between representatives of South Africa and the Maldivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Until Sunday they were the only guests in their resort, the Cinnamon Velifushi Maldives. This is usually full at this time of year and can accommodate around 180 guests. ("Room rates start at $ 750 a night," the website still says.) The resort spans the entire patch of an island. There is no place to go. The couple rule over their island like kind but captive rulers. The days are long and lazy. They sleep, snorkel, laze around the pool, repeat.

Due to the presence of the two guests, the entire staff of the resort is available. According to legal requirements, the Maldives are only allowed to leave the resorts after they have undergone a quarantine that follows the departure of their last guests. Most of the employees, accustomed to the end of a busy working day and the engagement to a full house of guests, had grown listless and lonely and kept looking at the couple. Her "Room Boy" checks her five times a day. The restaurants made them a lavish candlelit dinner on the beach. Every evening the performers give a show for them in the resort's restaurant: two individual spectators in a large dining room.

Nine waiters are sitting at their table at breakfast. Hostesses, buses and various chefs circulate conspicuously like citizens close to a celebrity. The couple have a designated waiter, but others still come by to chat during meals, refill water glasses after each sip, and offer drinks, although crowded cocktail glasses stand in full sight and sweat. The instructor asks them to snorkel whenever they pass by.

It is something lost, even worrying, to wander through an empty room that is said to be full. Lying alone, in the middle of the quiet, abandoned bench of deck chairs, the equatorial sun shimmers from the sea to the horizon, tans the skin and bleaches driftwood. "We started playing a lot of table tennis and snooker," said Ms. De Freitas. Mr. De Freitas also decided to take part in employee football matches in the afternoon.

Somewhere beyond, the world swirls. After an early panic and local quarantine for a sick tourist, fewer than two dozen cases of the new corona virus were reported in the Maldivian Islands. The majority of those diagnosed have already recovered.

The last thing they heard was that the flight permits should be sorted out by Monday, April 6th. That was an extension from April 1st, so this dates seem to be just optimistic. No matter: The last crease, they were told, is that the Maldivian airline's charter crew will not fly anyway and will have to rest a day before flying back to the Maldives. But the South African government said if they left, they would be quarantined there for 14 days. This is apparently a deal breaker. And a flight from their home country is not offered as an option.

The blockade in South Africa is scheduled to last until April 16. But like everywhere else, the decrees on travel and movement are constantly changing.

"It is incredible that we can get this extra time," said Ms. De Freitas. But the financial burden puts a heavy burden on them. Although the couple paid a generously discounted price, the bill keeps getting bigger. Every day that passes is a chip from their savings that have been reserved for a down payment for the house.

To their escalating endless honeymoon debt, they can add the unknown price of two tickets, which is likely to be an almost empty 200-seat jet. "Everyone says they want to be stuck on a tropical island until you are actually stuck," said Ms. De Freitas. "It only sounds good because you know you can go."


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