COVID-19: Changing rules and cancelled flights – International couples separated by the pandemic describe their ‘nightmare’

The pandemic has made life a “nightmare” for some couples living in different countries – and they now want governments to do more to help them reunite. Here are some of their stories.

Catriona, from Scotland, and Hugo, from France, met while working together in Finland in 2019.

Their trip got cut short by the pandemic and both returned to their home countries not knowing when they might see each other again.

Catriona says she feels incredibly lucky that after five months they could finally meet in person.

But she says that hasn’t come easy – with countless cancelled flights and having to navigate loopholes within the travel restrictions across both countries.

Both are waiting for when they next might be able to see each other.

Ellie’s husband Raymond is in the US.

In September 2020, she spent 15 days in quarantine in Barbados so she could travel to his home country to marry him.

Ellie returned to the UK days later to complete her visa application and shortly after received news she was expecting their first child.

Raymond was fortunate to meet his daughter a few days after she arrived, but this new family do not know when they’ll be able to settle into family life in the same country.

“Everything’s slowed down and it’s gone quiet,” she says.

Ellie says Love Is Not Tourism provided her with the advice and guidance she didn’t get from government websites and if it wasn’t for their support she wouldn’t be married or even have her daughter now.

Jack has worked for the NHS throughout the pandemic and met Jochelle, who lives in Dubai, at the start of the first lockdown.

“For both of us this past winter has been a nightmare,” he says.

He has had two trips cancelled already and a trip in July looks in doubt.

“My main problem is the hotel quarantine, which is not cheap. I would be happy to do it but the cost is extortionate for a country which is extremely safe, and has one of the best vaccine rollouts in the world.

“The wait to see each other is affecting us and I am now so desperate just to get out there. I wish the government would see what this is doing to people.”

US national Dorian and her UK national boyfriend Mohammad have seen each other once during the pandemic.

Both booked a trip to Turkey in December 2020, as this was the only place both countries could travel to at the time.

Dorian says the couple already face cultural and religious challenges within their communities, “but surprisingly, the easiest part of our story so far is dealing with our different cultures”, she says.

“I am hoping soon that change will come and families and couples like ours can see each other again.”

For the past six years Briony and her boyfriend had been coping with their long-distance relationship, but 2020 turned their lives upside down.

Then a cruise ship singer, Briony lost her job, income and had no idea when she might see him again.

“Our countries constantly see-sawed,” she says.

“The UK would open borders, but I couldn’t afford to travel – or I would save the money, and then his borders would close.

“We’re treated the same as people who want a long week in the sun yet we’re talking about being separated from family and loved ones here.”

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