A survey of Heartbroken Brits in binational relationships has shown as many as 87% are suffering from mental health issues due to global travel restrictions, which have ripped them and their children apart for over a year.
The international couples are part of a growing group of tens of thousands joining together on social media under #LoveIsNotTourism - to demand they are exempted from global travel restrictions in Monday's announcement by Boris Johnson, following a devastating period of forced separation.
The survey shows 87% are worried about their mental health, with anxiety and depression being widely reported, with sleeping problems being an issue for 76%.
61% also said they “often” felt down, depressed or hopeless. While 78% are worried about the Financial issues caused by travel restrictions, e.g. testing, hotel quarantine. 68% are worried about relationship issues, including arguments and relationship breakdown. 62% are finding it very or extremely difficult to do their work or to take care of things at home.
A wide range of physical symptoms was also linked to the forced separations including; back ache, chest pain, eye pain, dizziness, exhaustion, chest pain, shortness of breath, digestive issues, changes to appetite, weight gain and hives.
Catriona Kendall, from Scotland, who is separated from her French partner , said:
“We've been separated a total of 240 days due to the pandemic restrictions. I have never struggled with mental health before but now I have anxiety and depression.”
The couples say that the new quarantine hotels, and heavy-handed threats of “jail” time or £10K fines if they attempt to travel to see a partner in a ‘red list’ country means they will be forced to stay in detention-like centres for two weeks and pay £1,750; has made it impossible for them to see one another. The decision to charge for the quarantine goes against WHO guidelines.
The UK’s travel restrictions are tougher than most countries, and causing ‘untold misery’ . Disturbingly, numerous survey participants reported feeling suicidal due to the gruelling separations and there being no 'end point' to their misery. They include Helen* from London, who was unable to get the support she desperately needed from her partner, and links her suicide attempt directly to the travel bans. She said:
“I’ve been raped and going through hell during lockdown; I haven’t got any support and am now banned from seeing my partner or even from receiving a hug following my rape; as a result I became hopeless and tried to take my own life.
“You can do business over the phone or online, yet businessmen are exempt, while I can’t even see my partner, which is essential to my wellbeing and mental health. The lack of exemption is so cruel and our leaders have never even acknowledged we exist in their travel announcements.”
Whilst binational couples aren’t exempt, chicken factory have previously been on the exemptions list. 17 other countries have previously introduced a "sweetheart exemption" including, France, Italy, Spain and Germany. The measure is safe and supported by respected virologists including Marc Van Ranst. He tweeted @vanranstmarc*:
"My fellow virologists and I wholeheartedly support the #Loveisnottourism principle, and are already proposing this for months to our government."
Statistics from other countries including Canada show that under 2% of covid cases arise from travel bans, where 98% comes from the local community. The spokesperson added "The focus should be on community spread, not global travel."
In the UK, unmarried partners and families have never been mentioned in relation to travel bans - with the government coming down hard on Instagram influencers jetting off to Dubai for some "me time". It's left many couples, who have been going through serious life crises and mental health emergencies on their own, feeling desperate . They include "Zoom dads" missing the birth of their baby's first year of life, and NHS workers.
Adoctor working on the frontline fighting covid in the north west of England, and whose partner lives in France (who does not want to be named for fear of reprisal), said: “There are so many NHS workers like me who are helping the UK to fight the pandemic. I am burned out not just from the work, but also the added stress of not being able to see my fiance.”
The couples support travel restrictions on the whole, but feel they should be exempt, and at least able to do ‘test and release’ to isolate with their partners.
Under current plans announced by Grant Shapps, travel restrictions will not be lifted until later this year after everyone is vaccinated, which means most couples will be forced apart for two years, a violation of their human rights.
Imposing quarantine on passengers is destroying aviation industry, with over 80% saying they will not travel to destinations that impose hotel quarantines. Suitable and safer alternatives to quarantine exist. To establish confidence that systematic pre-departure covid 19 testing can work as a replacement to quarantine, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has developed a Travel Pass Initiative and list of measures that would allow safe travel.
A spokesperson for Love Is Not Tourism UK said: “The UK government has criminalised love and family, and by introducing quarantine hotels, has made it impossible for us to see one another - they have effectively introduced a global travel ban.
"We support restricting international travel to reduce the risk of spreading covid, but those in relationships should be exempt, with appropriate measures like testing, which are a safe alternative to quarantine - Boris it's time to reunite us.”
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Notes to editor
* Helen’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
** We do not have permission to use this Tweet and are quoting Marc directly from Twitter. You would need to make direct contact with the account holder for interviews or permission.