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The Maldives - are there worse places to ride out a Lockdown?

by Michael Brown 24 Apr 11:00 NZST 24 April 2020
Even in The Maldives the plastic pollution is too evident © Anneliese Ball

It might sound like there are worse places in the world to be under lockdown than the Maldives but for one Kiwi family on a cruising adventure, COVID-19 is just as scary and uncertain as it is for the rest of us.

The Ball family have been stuck in the Maldives for more than a month due to border restrictions. They have been confined to their catamaran - they haven't been allowed to go ashore and rely on an agent and coastguard to deliver supplies - and are allowed to venture only a few metres from their boat.

The situation has worsened in recent times, with an outbreak spreading to nearby islands, and indications there will be no food deliveries potentially for the next fortnight. They have also been told to make plans to leave as soon as possible but have seemingly nowhere to go.

"For the sailors out on the oceans at present, it is a tense time," Anneliese Ball said on her blog. "Borders are closed and boats are unwelcome.

"We have seen several yachts try to enter here after the lockdown date and watched, and listened on the VHF, as they have been turned away; not permitted to anchor and only restocked with provisions and fuel by Coastguard, before being made to continue their unknown journey. Where will they go? Who will welcome them? What will happen?"

It certainly wasn't part of the plans when the family sold their family home in Auckland two years ago and bought a Leopard 46 catamaran in Tahiti. The family of five have since sailed through the Pacific, south-east Asia and up to Sri Lanka before arriving in the Maldives.

Their plan was to head further west but all of that is now up in the air with little certainty of what will happen next.

"Yachts are being ostracised," Ball said. "They are the symbol of travel and potential carriers of viruses to every local person who sees us, worldwide. Even if we have not been ashore or around any other people for months, local peoples are unaware of this and see us as a threat, even though we are just as concerned with avoiding COVID-19 as they are.

"In some countries, yachts have been asked to leave areas where locals are not trustful of them. Local boats in some parts of Indonesia have been driving past anchored yachts shouting ‘Coronas, get out!’. People are hostile to the crews when they go ashore for provisions in various countries around the world. It is a stressful and challenging time.

"I guess time can only tell us what is sensible and safe to do, but it is an emotional waiting game that is hard to play."

To read the full blog click here

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