LONDON, Nov 5 (Reuters) – For more than a year, Bhavna Patel has seen her first grandson grow up via FaceTime, talking to him in New York every day as U.S. travel restrictions prevent him from doing the trip from London.
Come Monday she threatens to dance down the aisle of the British Airways plane that will take her to meet him at last, as the United States lifts COVID-19 restrictions that have prevented much of the world from entering for more than 20 years. months.
She’s already too excited to sleep, counting the days, hours, and minutes, and she wants the world to know her news. He would also like to wear a big hat announcing that he is about to meet his grandson, Kai.
“I wake up at night and think, are we really going?” he told Reuters at his home in south London, throwing his hands in the air with excitement. “It’s going to be amazing to catch him.”
Unprecedented restrictions have prevented loved ones and foreign workers from reuniting with families, attending weddings, saying goodbye to funerals, and greeting new babies.
Patel’s son, Kushal, moved to New York more than six years ago and his most recent visit, in 2019, is a distant memory. He made a FaceTime to his family from New York Hospital to introduce his son and had urged them to book tickets by the time the borders were reopened.
For her mother, the hardest part of the separation was not knowing when she would end up, and the questions of well-meaning friends asking when she would meet her grandson.
“It’s that question, it really takes something out of you,” she said, blinking tears and looking at photos of her family in New York. “It’s like putting a nail in your heart and itching. And now I can say, look, I’m leaving!”
WITH NEW YORK
Patel and her daughter Bindiya will be on BA001, the first BA flight to New York leaving Heathrow on Monday, when the United States reopens fully vaccinated international visitors.
The British-flagged company is marking the reopening of the route from Europe to the United States with a first flight reserved for friends and separated families during the pandemic, bringing royal family photographer Chris Floyd to capture the moment.
This is of importance to European airlines on the transatlantic route, BA and Virgin Atlantic expect to send two aircraft down the Heathrow twin runways for a synchronized take-off, weather permitting.
On BA001, Bindiya will bring the British Cadbury chocolate that her brother has lost. She wonders how Kai will react when she sees her family “in 3D” for the first time.
“It’s a real pinch moment,” he said at his home, where balloons are still celebrating Kai’s birthday in October.
Restrictions on non-US citizens were first imposed on air travelers from China in January 2020 by then-President Donald Trump and then extended to dozens of other countries.
Bhavna Patel said she would think of all the other families in the world who have not yet had the opportunity to reunite. He also worries that an 8-hour flight feels too long.
“I don’t think counting days is enough, not days, it’s hours, minutes,” he said. “I want to meet him. Monday is too late, that’s how I feel.”
Report by Kate Holton; edited by Guy Faulconbridge and Mike Collett-White
Source Thomson Reuters.