Be a sweetheart, find ways to reunite loved ones separated by Covid-19

On Wednesday, I sent my five-year-old to his kindergarten and headed straight to work.

By the time I got home, he was fast asleep.

On that day, I only had some 50-odd minutes with him – trying to wake him up, getting him to brush his teeth, making sure he ate his breakfast, bathing him, and driving him to the kindy.

I missed him terribly.

Now, imagine those who have not seen their loved ones since the first lockdown was imposed in Malaysia in March 2020.

I can’t.

In September 2020, this news website reported that ‘Love Is Not Tourism Malaysia’ had submitted a petition and supporting documents to the Prime Minister’s Office asking for consideration for a “sweetheart visa” to reunite families who have not been able to see each other due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Sweetheart visas” are common in European countries as a means to allow husbands, wives and other loved ones to visit each other despite a strict travel ban.

What has happened since?

Malaysia experienced two state elections and a change in leadership in Putrajaya. But for unmarried couples (and some with children), they remained in limbo.

I’ve been tagged on Twitter regarding the plight of these poor souls. I feel for them. They have been tagging many other individuals too, complete with pictures of people holding up heart-wrenching messages. It’s sad.

The fear, of course, is if more individuals were allowed into the country, the number of Covid-19 cases could surge. However, this could be mitigated as partners flying in would be forced to observe quarantine rules if they wanted to head home.

If business travellers are allowed in, why not loved ones?

The other fear is that a “sweetheart visa” could be subject to abuse. If one has no official documentation to prove his or her relationship with the other half, that would constitute a “friend” visiting from abroad, and not a life partner. Similar to the concept of a tourist entering Malaysia.

But that didn’t stop many countries in Europe and even Singapore from allowing “partners” and their children in.

In September 2020, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority in Singapore added a new “spouse-to-be” category for unmarried partners who wanted to enter the island nation.

The category allowed foreigners in a relationship with Singapore citizens, or even their permanent residents, to fly over to the republic on a short-term visit pass.

Land travel between Singapore and Malaysia will finally reopen from Nov 29, but only for long-term pass holders.

Malaysia had initially planned to open up the borders by December, but the timeline had been pushed back somewhat, to January. The next two weeks or so would also be equally crucial, due to the anticipated Covid-19 surge from the Melaka election that took place yesterday.

The safety of Malaysians must always be the priority. But let’s have a heart and find ways to reunite loved ones.

Love is certainly not tourism, Malaysia.

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