The South African couple, Olivia and Raul De Freitas, traveled to the country on March 22 for a 6-day honeymoon. Olivia said The New York Times that the holidays are “an extravagance” for them, because she is a teacher and her husband is a butcher.
When they were uncertain about the vacation amid intensified travel restrictions, their travel agent reassured them that they would be able to return home, so they continued the journey. But on March 25, South Africa announced that its airports would be closed the next day at midnight. Even if the couple had to scramble and try to take a flight, several stopovers meant it would take them hours to get home. Around the same time, the Maldives also announced that they would close their airports and ban new foreign travelers, so the couple decided to stay.
When they contacted the South African consulate in the Maldives and the South African embassy in Sri Lanka for help, a representative informed them of the other 40 South Africans who were also stranded in the Maldives. The only choice they had would be to pay for a charter home, which would cost them $ 104,000. Everyone would share the cost, but the government had only spoken with half of the 40 – and after ongoing discussions between South Africa and the Maldives, the flight had not yet been authorized. The foreclosure of South Africa will not end until April 16.On March 29, the couple were the last guest at their island-wide resort – where room rates start at $ 750 a night. The entire staff – artists, waiters, hostesses, chefs – stayed on the island because of the couple; Government procedures also require that Maldivians be quarantined after the last guests have left.
There have been fewer than two dozen cases reported in total in the Maldives; most of the infected have now recovered.
Although the couple have a reduced rate, staying there has become a financial drain – and they may have to pay thousands of dollars for a private jet. “Everyone says they want to be stuck on a tropical island, until you are actually stuck,” said De Freitas. Time. “It only looks good because you know you can leave.” “
The couple was informed on Sunday that they were being sent by speedboat to another five-star resort, where other South Africans – around two dozen in total – were centralized. The South African government has said it will subsidize much of the cost of staying there.
It is not known when the couple will be able to return home. The staff at their original hotel – who is still paid – have been informed that they have to stay at the hotel for two weeks after customers leave.
Twitter, of course, had a field day with this story.