WATCH | 'It's perpetual punishment': SA couples separated by Covid-19 plead for special visas

28 August 2020 - 12:16 By Deepa Kesa

Many parts of the world, including SA, closed their borders as the Covid-19 pandemic took the globe by storm. This decision was necessary to limit infections, and has seen tourism in SA lose billions in revenue.

The closure of borders has also brought heartache for binational unmarried couples who have been separated since lockdowns were implemented. This has led to the creation of a movement called #LoveIsNotTourism.

Claire Millward, a member of the Love Is Not Tourism Facebook page, told TimesLIVE  that binational couples who are trying to see each other have accepted all the Covid-19 rules and regulations that must be adhered to once they land in another country.

“Everyone is willing to quarantine alone before seeing their partner,” said Millward.

Couples wanting to end their separation have made it clear this would not be a holiday, saying it is about mental health and the future of people all around the world.

A couple who have tried pleading with several officials are Robbie Manthé from SA and Kerry Foley from Ireland. They have been together since 2014, got engaged in 2018 and set their wedding date for August 15 2020, but did not know their plans would be halted due to a pandemic.

Foley is stuck in Ireland with no way to cross SA borders.

“All I need is your borders to open up, I've got my bags packed,"” she told TimesLIVE.

People across the globe have urged governments to amend their travel restrictions to allow the reunions of family members and partners in long-distance relationships.

Some couples had made all the arrangements, believing they would soon start their new lives together.

Mukta Lalwani, who is stuck in India, wrapped up her life in that country, which included letting go of her apartment, quitting her job and taking her child out of school in India and enrolling him in SA, only to be halted by the coronavirus and travel restrictions.

“I've always been very independent, I've always had a  job and never had to ask for money. Now I've been living with my parents without being employed. It's a situation I never thought I would be in,” said Lalwani.

Her fiancé, Nikhil Patel from SA, has also found the situation difficult. He said the worst part was not knowing when they would get married and start their life together.

“The constant worries going through my mind every day are draining,” he said.

Some countries have implemented a “sweetheart visa” which allows unmarried couples to unite and end their separation. Among them are Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands.

Members of the SA #LoveIsNotTourism Facebook page are asking the government to consider allowing the same concessions.