The couple considered taking the hour-and-a-half speedboat ride to the main island and trying their luck at the airport. But the Maldives had also announced their own lockdown around the same time, banning any new foreign travelers. If they left the resort, they might not be allowed back in. So, they stayed.

Mr. De Freitas, described by his wife as the calm one, took the strange turn of events in stride. This would all get sorted out, and, besides, they were in paradise. Ms. De Freitas, naturally, shared some of her husband’s delight, but sensed a logistical nightmare worthy of Kafka was about to ensue.

They reached out to the South African consulate in the Maldives, and the closest South African embassy, in Sri Lanka, for help. A representative told them, via WhatsApp, that there were around 40 other South Africans spread among the Maldives, and that their option home would be to hire a chartered jet, at their own expense, for $104,000.