(CNN) — There are worse places to wait out a pandemic.
Hundreds of tourists are still stuck in the Maldives, Ali Waheed, the country’s tourism minister told CNN’s Richard Quest, more than a month after the novel coronavirus arrived there.
Waheed said there was about 500 tourists on the islands, with 100 of them stranded at the airport. The government is helping people who cannot afford to continue staying in resorts.
“We believe they are like locals, they are the people who have brought this country to where it is now,” Waheed said.
The first two coronavirus cases in the Maldives were confirmed on March 8, and a state of public health emergency was declared by the Minister of Health on March 12.
There have been 468 total coronavirus cases on the island. A total of 17 have recovered from the virus, while one has died, according to the country’s Ministry of Health.
The island nation in the Indian Ocean is known for its luxury resorts, and the tourism industry there has been rocked by the coronavirus pandemic as the country closed its national borders and canceled flights.
In early April, the New York Times reported on life for one couple stuck there on a never-ending honeymoon. “There is nowhere to go. The couple reign like benign yet captive sovereigns over their islet. The days are long and lazy. They sleep in, snorkel, lounge by the pool, repeat,” the NYT wrote.
“Everyone says they want to be stuck on a tropical island, until you’re actually stuck,” Olivia De Freitas told the paper. “It only sounds good because you know you can leave.”