Relief as travel ‘traffic lights’ system is removed

Birthdays, graduations, weddings, and the birth of new family members. These are just a handful of people have missed out on during the past two years because of the travel restrictions imposed due to COVID-19.

A few hours ago, the Maltese government ditched the ‘traffic light’ system of travel restrictions, which means countries are no longer classified as ‘green’, ‘red’ or ‘dark red’ for travel.

The decision opened up travel between Malta and roughly 100 countries and territories, which were still classified as ‘dark red’ and travelers needed permission from the health authorities before flying to and had to quarantine upon arrival.

Travelers entering Malta still need to present a valid COVID-19 vaccination certificate, a recent negative test result or a recovery certificate.

For many who have family and loved ones living in ‘dark red’ countries, the removal of the travel list brought about a huge sigh of relief, and excitement to plan an overdue reunion.

Mother finally meets her son-in-law and grandson

Lara* originally left Bosnia and Herzegovina in February 2020 for a quick holiday in Malta to visit a friend.

Little did she know that in the next two-and-a-half years she would meet her future husband, have a pandemic wedding, and spend the majority of her pregnancy in lockdown – all this without the presence of her family.

It was only last weekend when her mother finally got to meet her son-in-law and her six-month-old grandson since Bosnia and Herzegovina was placed on the ‘dark red’ list last year, making it impossible for the family to travel directly to Malta.

“Two days before she was due to travel to Malta, Bosnia and Herzegovina was moved from ‘red’ to ‘dark red’,” she said. “Yet, I was ready to cover all the traveling expenses for my mother, I was ready to pay for her stay in a quarantine hotel so that she could be present for the birth and my recovery. Having my first child at the age of 42 is risky and I her to be by my side.”

Despite being fully vaccinated and booking tickets twice, the Maltese authorities did not give her permission to travel directly to Malta – instead asked that she first spends 14 days in a ‘red’ country and then quarantine for 14 days once arriving in Malta.

“By that time, I would have already given birth, and so much traveling would have done no good for my mother, so we decided to leave it. Both of us were so upset, I really needed her during my pregnancy.”

She said not having her family around during the past two years was a “disaster” and she couldn’t understand why the authorities did not allow her mother to travel to Malta to be present during the birth.

Skype calls helped her keep in touch with her parents, who also missed out on their daughter’s wedding.

“When I was seven months pregnant, we decided to marry, and while my husband’s parents were able to attend the wedding, not having my parents by my side was so awful and I felt so bad,” she said.

When the government announced the removal of the travel ban, she was in total disbelief. “I couldn’t believe it at first, as Bosnia is a non-EU country and was one of the first on the red list and then moved to a dark red list.”

Just to be safe, she and her family decided to travel to Germany, where her husband’s family live, and there she would finally meet her mother.

“Last week was the first time my mother held her grandson, and I know that they will spend a lot of time together, and this makes me very happy,” she said.

Plans to invite daughter to Malta continuously delayed

Dax and her granddaughter, who she has only met via Facebook chat and Skype calls throughout the pandemic. Photo: Dax Arrozal Millado

Dax Arrozal Millado last saw her four children back in May 2018 and planned for her then 18-year-old daughter to visit Malta for a holiday to celebrate her examination results.

Yet, since the Philippines was placed on the ‘dark red’ list, the process was much more daunting. “We called and e-mailed every possible department and health sector to see what travel documents she needed, but we never received any positive answer, and I was left feeling so hopeless,” Arrozal Millado said.

Just like Lara*, she was told that for her daughter’s travel to be approved by the health department she would have to quarantine in a red list country and then come to Malta afterwards. “The process was really confusing, like solving a multi-million puzzle.”

The 45-year-old said she missed out on many important big events, such as one of her daughter’s graduation ceremony, her daughter’s 18th birthday, and meeting her first granddaughter in person, who is now two-and-a-half years old , who she only met via Facebook chat.

She described feeling “really happy and relieved” now that the traffic light system was removed, especially as they had begun to lose hope.

Being fully vaccinated, her daughter will now start processing her visa once again, with the hope of visiting Malta this summer.

“The original plan was for her to come for two weeks in May, but due to this traffic light system we had to rebook her tickets, which cost us another €280, so we hope we manage to file all the new requirements and paperwork for her to visit us before she starts school in August.”

*Name has been changed.

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