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B.C. couple gambles on $30,000 'unlimited stays' package in the Maldives during pandemic

"There are always risks in life."

A B.C. couple has no regrets about their decision to spend the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in paradise, far from home.

Neal Van Beers and his girlfriend, Charmaine Sanchez, left for the Maldives in December, after paying for an "unlimited stays" package at Anantara's Veli Maldives Resort.

The price? $30,000 USD for two persons. Or, as Van Beers tells Vancouver Is Awesome by way of email, "almost the same as a 1 bedroom apartment monthly in Vancouver."

Included in the package are unlimited stays until December 23, 2021. They left B.C. just before Christmas of 2020, and have rented out their house in Canada while they're away.

The couple is currently staying in an "over water bungalow," which is essentially a small house on stilts over the Arabian Sea. They enjoy complimentary breakfasts, 25% off all other meals, all the amenities you'd expect from a luxury resort, and a tropical climate where the average temperature in January is 28 degrees celsius.

Van Beers owns a Dairy Queen franchise in Golden, B.C., and has been able to work remotely for the past month since they arrived. He identifies as a "working digital nomad", and says the only downside is the 12-hour time difference, which makes it difficult to book meetings.

He says they decided to take advantage of the $30,000 offer because of what he describes as "the ongoing negativity and restrictions" regarding the pandemic in B.C., and that since they arrived they are living "maskless and free."

The couple had originally planned to come back to Canada in March, but are now considering staying the entire year.

B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer has advised that, in order to curb the spread of COVID-19, "non-essential travel should be avoided" at this time, and their advisory explicitly says "Do not travel for a vacation," however it's unclear if spending an entire year abroad constitutes a vacation.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Maldives has reported 14,582 cases of COVID-19, and 49 deaths. As of yesterday, they're doing better than Canada in terms of case numbers, with 111 cases per million people compared to Canada's 176 per million.

When asked if they're concerned about the threat of COVID-19, and not having access to the same type of medical care that they would in Canada should they catch the virus, Van Beers says that he's not aware of any cases on the island they're staying on, and that "There are always risks in life."

He notes that there is one physician on the island, and that he's a "top notch doctor" who administers COVID-19 tests for travelers heading to the airport, getting their results to them in 24 hours or less.

Van Beers' and Sanchez's stay in paradise is a risky gamble that most would not take, and Vancouver Is Awesome will check back in with them in 6 months to see how it went for them.