‘Love is not tourism,’ says couple separated for six months by coronavirus

WIESLOCH, Germany (Reuters) – Florian Mehler last saw his girlfriend in late January when she left Germany for her native Brazil. His plans to join Renata Alves in late March were abandoned when the borders were closed as the coronavirus pandemic spread worldwide.

Florian Mehler talks to his partner Renata Alves, who lives in Recife, Brazil, during an interview with Reuters about the problems of binational couples separated by coronavirus measures and trying to change the regulations so that they can be in Wiesloch personally can meet, August 3, 2020. REUTERS / Tilman Blasshofer

“We talk about FaceTime every day. But that's only virtual, ”said the 41-year-old Mehler in an interview at home in Wiesloch near Frankfurt.

"We can't hug. We can't kiss. We can't wake up together, have coffee together, go to town together."

After meeting online a year ago, Alves visited Mehler twice in Germany and flew once to her in Brazil. She has the necessary documents to move to Germany and look for a job.

Brazil resumed international air travel for all foreign tourists with health insurance for the duration of their trip last week, even if the country's coronavirus outbreak is considered the second worst in the world.

In Germany there is a travel warning for most countries, including Brazil. This may mean that the health and cancellation insurance for travel there is invalid.

Most borders of the European Union are closed to non-EU travelers, unless they are essential workers or married to an EU citizen.

So Alves Mehler blows kisses on her tablet screen and he tells her how much he misses her. On Sundays they sometimes take virtual walks together outdoors.

"The worst part is that we don't know when we'll see each other because the borders are still closed," said Mehler.

Separate couples have lobbied on social media under the hashtags #LoveIsEssential and #LoveIsNotTourism to enable governments to reunite them.

Some European countries, including Austria, Norway and Denmark, have followed the call and have introduced “treasure visas” that exclude couples from the travel ban.

Mehler took part in a rally in Frankfurt organized by the Association of Binational Families and Partnerships on August 1 and asked Germany to issue such visas.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, however, prefers a common European solution, since Germany only took over the EU presidency last month, a ministry spokesman said on Monday.

Alves, 40, said it was unfair for Germans to have fun traveling abroad to get COVID-19 while being barred from entering Germany for imperative reasons.

"I am totally healthy, my family is totally healthy," she said in Recife, Brazil, and remarked that she would do a coronavirus test and would quarantine for love.

Reuters TV reporting; Writing by Maria Sheahan; Edited by Richard Chang

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