A Canadian physician hasn’t seen his Maltese girlfriend in over a year and a half, as COVID-19 travel restrictions have been tearing them apart. Canada is currently not accepting any visitors, and while Malta has opened its doors to tourists, it doesn’t recognise Canadian vaccine certificates yet.
The fully-vaccinated physician Ramy Hanna met his Maltese girlfriend on a vacation in Croatia in 2017. Ever since they got together, they would see each other every few months in different countries. Their last trip was in January 2020, when they met in Mexico.
Since he returned from that month-long trip with his loved one, they haven’t been able to see each other in real life – and it has put a strain on their relationship.
“As soon as we got back from Mexico, we were arranging to meet again in March, this time in Canada. When the WHO declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic we were very anxious, and devastated shortly after with the travel restrictions that followed.”
As all of their plans were cancelled, they lost a huge amount of money on their planned trips.
“In the next few months this strained our relationship and tore us apart. I tried many times to come to Malta but every time new restrictions would take place, preventing this from happening.”
Now that their relationship is forced to be long-distance, they keep in touch on video chat, but it feels like they can no longer prioritise each other like they used to.
“When you’re apart for that long, even the smallest things become an issue. It truly tore us apart.”
Before the pandemic broke out, Ramy was even planning to move to Malta to work here as a physician and be together with his girlfriend of four years. That is still the plan, but at the moment it doesn’t seem like he’ll be able to move anytime soon.
Canadian vaccine certificates are not accepted in Malta, even though the country’s cases are extremely low: the average in the past month is around 400 cases a day, on a population of 38 million people. That would be the equivalent of Malta having just 5 cases per day.
On top of that, more than 70% of the Canadian population is vaccinated, including Ramy, who was vaccinated in January 2021 as a frontline worker.
“During these hard times I had to work extra hard as we are short-staffed and the pandemic put a toll on the entire health system. I was happy to be vaccinated early in the roll-out, hoping that this would soon put an end to the pandemic.”
He also took part in vaccinating patients and promoting the vaccine campaign. “This was a success, as Canada became one of the leading countries in terms of the proportion of population vaccinated nearing 80% with one dose and 55% fully vaccinated.”
Ramy’s home province, Newfoundland, has zero active cases at the moment.
The island on the east coast of Canada is known as ‘the rock’, just like Malta. “The only cases found were fishermen on a boat, and they didn’t even touch Newfoundland.”
All the while, American vaccine certificates are currently accepted in Malta, despite cases being on the rise and the country seeing about 150,000 new cases every day out of a population of nearly 330 million.
“When Canada eased the travel restrictions, I was thrilled thinking that this would be my chance to put back the broken pieces and salvage my relationship.”
But Malta’s health department remains silent on the Canadian vaccine certificates.
He also reached out to the vetting authority numerous times for weeks on end, requesting that his Canadian vaccine certificate would be accepted.
“I sent photos of me getting vaccinated, me promoting the vaccine roll-out as well as a copy of my vaccine record. I also sent my travel itinerary and my Airbnb booking which are both nonrefundable, but that did not seem to matter. I feel devastated and defeated and I wish my situation would be looked at.”
When asked whether they could meet in another country, Ramy clarified that they wanted to spend a good amount of time together to make up for lost time and to work on their relationship.
“Given the time we spent apart, the relationship would require an extended period of time to get back on track rather than a few days spent on a vacation.”
He had booked an Airbnb in Mosta for over a month this summer, hoping that this time together would get them back to where they were pre-pandemic – but he won’t be able to stay there anytime soon.
Ramy urges the Maltese government to accept the Canadian vaccine certificates, noting that this also affects the community of Maltese-Canadians living in Canada.
Do you think Malta should start recognising Canadian vaccine certificates?