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Love in the Time of Corona: Hope for Distanced Couples as Travel Restrictions Ease

August 13, 2020, 11.22 PM

PARIS, – Love in the time of corona has been lonesome for many couples as travel restrictions kept lovers and unmarried couples apart since the coronavirus pandemic.

The long months of waiting may finally be over since governments around the world are showing more understanding of separated couples' plight.

Some governments have introduced measures that would permit a happy and much-anticipated reunion.

Read also: Air Travel Picking Up Steam Despite Indonesia’s Covid-19 Transition Period

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Frenchman Nicolas Perret would regularly meet his Russia-based partner.

The couple would travel to one or the other country using a tourist visa. But love in the time of corona has kept Nicolas and his partner apart for several months.

"At some point this will all come to an end. We know that much, but no one knows when, or how much harm it will have done," the 50-year-old engineer told AFP, saying they have considered changing jobs, taking up studies again or even getting married in order to reunite.

Some governments permitted married couples and civil partners to get round travel bans and join their other half, but couples lacking official paperwork to prove their relationship were kept separated.

Read also: Indonesia in the Time of Covid-19: Have Health Certificate, Will Travel

The rules — judged unfair by melancholy lovers — prompted a worldwide social media campaign called "Love is Not Tourism".

"It is obvious that we must halt tourism to protect us and others," the lobby group said on a website set up to back the campaign.

"But love is not tourism. This is not just about a summer holiday, it is about mental health and the future of people all around the world."


Non-essential travel to the European Union remains prohibited from a number of countries, including the United States, with exceptions for EU citizens, residents and their families.

In theory, member states can choose to allow unmarried partners in documented relationships to enter the EU, but in practice few do so.

On Friday, the European Commission urged member states to end many couples' torment and allow entry for unmarried partners of European citizens and residents.

Read also: Greece Tightens Coronavirus Restrictions for EU Tourists

Germany, which holds the rotating EU presidency, has sent a questionnaire quizzing the 27 member states on their policy.

Travel restrictions have prevented Emeric Tonri from returning from France to Vietnam where he lives with his wife and their four-year-old daughter.

"It's tragic, I haven't seen her since December," said Tonri, who has worked in the Southeast Asian country for the past six years.

Writer Lucie Azema had been living with her Azerbaijani boyfriend in Iran's capital Tehran for over a year when the pandemic tore them apart.

Since the outbreak, Azema has been stuck in France and her boyfriend in his home country, where he fled to escape the worsening health crisis in Iran.

"We're being worn down, as we can see the situation isn't getting better and it could well go on for another year," Azema told AFP.

For the past week, Azema has been waiting in Turkey in the hope of a loosening of the restrictions or a loophole that will allow her boyfriend to leave Azerbaijan.

But entries and exits from the ex-Soviet state remain strictly prohibited.

Time is ticking

According to the 'Love Is Not Tourism' movement, only 11 countries allow bi-national couples to meet up.

On Sunday, France became the latest to announce measures to put an end to these couples' plight.

They will be able to apply for a pass to allow their partner to enter France, by presenting documents at their local consulate which prove common activities, their identity, residency in France for one of the two people concerned as well as a return ticket.

Read also: Travel Agents and Airlines in Indonesia Go Through Turbulence from Pandemic

"This virus doesn't like love. We do," the minister in charge of tourism at the French foreign ministry, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, told Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

Frenchman Fabien Lefebvre, who has not seen his Iranian partner since February, welcomed the measures.

"But time is ticking, and the level of tension and despair is already very high," Lefebvre told AFP.

"Many are at their wits' end. For some, their employers won't let them leave again after the summer holidays, so they won't be reunited before Christmas."

(Writer: Daphne Rousseau)


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