Covid-19: Expat in Norway unable to come home to grieve dad's death

On March 14 last year, New Zealand decided to close its borders to stop coronavirus ravaging the community. For the expats living abroad, home has never felt so far away. Brittney Deguara speaks to Kiwis living overseas, unable to easily get home.
When expatriate Hamish Moore lost his dad eight months ago, he was on the other side of the world. He couldnt make it back for the funeral, and still hasnt been able to properly grieve his loss.

I dont really feel like Ive mourned dad yet because I havent [gone] home, I havent seen mum, and I havent been where they lived ... It will hit me really hard when I first do that, and I feel I need to do that.

Thats one of the hard things because youre so far removed.

Supplied
Kiwi expat Hamish Moore lives Norway with his family and last visited New Zealand in January 2020.

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But as vaccination programmes get underway across the globe, Moore is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Can we be allowed to hope that we may be allowed into New Zealand again without huge restrictions and costly two weeks of managed isolation?


Moore, a sports teacher and school counsellor, has lived in Telemark, a region southwest of Oslo, for 15 years with his Norwegian wife and two teenage children. While he considers himself lucky to live there during the pandemic, he has the urge to come home and be with his family. Sadly, like many Kiwi expats have found, thats not an easy feat.

He was last in New Zealand in January 2020 two months before the Government decided to close the borders and go into lockdown, and five months before his dad died.

Moore was prepared to immediately jump on a plane and make the two-day journey back to New Zealand if his dad's condition deteriorated. But by June, that wasnt an option.

I wanted to see him, I wanted to be with him when he died, I wanted to be with my family ... I definitely wouldve come.

At the time, managed isolation and quarantine had been rolled out, spaces were limited and free-of-charge. It wasnt the cost of travelling home that stood in the way, but rather how long the whole process would take.


I wouldnt make it home in time, he would be dead, and I wouldnt even make it to the funeral ... I had to kind of make peace with that.

Moore was also realistic about how he would cope with enduring two weeks in managed isolation alone.

I just don't think that would be good for my mental health ... I made the call to be a dad rather than a son.

He described the situation as a massive loss of freedom. It's a sense of being trapped, which is really horrible.

The New Zealand Government is yet to put an end date on its border restrictions, but the thought of them continuing for years to come scared Moore.

I feel actually a little bit of panic because ... I really want to connect with my home and my family again ... the reality is ... I dont think I can afford the time or the money with that two weeks.

Moore was hopeful the Covid-19 vaccines will be a turning point for international travel.

The Kiwi is expecting to get the vaccine in Norway soon at 51 years of age, he is part of the group next in line and hopes New Zealand will introduce a quarantine-free arrangement for vaccinated travellers.

The idea of a vaccine passport has been floated since inoculations began being administered globally, but New Zealand is yet to make a decision on whether proof of vaccinations will allow returnees to bypass managed isolation.

A Ministry of Health spokesperson told Stuff they are watching developments in this space closely, but question marks around the vaccine remain.

At this stage, it is too early to know whether a vaccinated person could still be a carrier and transmit Covid-19 to someone else. Currently, we cannot say how the vaccine roll-out in New Zealand and internationally will affect New Zealands border controls.

Supplied
Although Hamish Moore, pictured here in Marlborough Sounds, has lived in Norway for many years, he is still connected to Aotearoa.

Moore echoed the ideas expressed by one Covid-19 modeller pushing for the trans-Tasman bubble to inflate travellers could present a negative test before departure and on arrival to ensure the risk to the community is low.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins previously said it appeared inevitable that visitors to New Zealand would require proof of a vaccine. Air New Zealand is already exploring the idea of a Covid-19 digital health passport.

Iceland began accepting travellers with vaccine certificates on Thursday.

Norway suspended its roll out of the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 11 following reports of blood clots. The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are also included in the countrys Covid-19 vaccination programme.

Moore supported the Governments move to close the border, as it was necessary to protect New Zealanders from experiencing the worst of the pandemic he even has a sense of pride seeing how well the country has done. But peoples attitudes towards expatriates and the continued restrictions have been difficult to deal with.

Im a Kiwi just as much as anyone else living there, and I've got family there, and I want to see them ... The way it is now, its basically keeping me out.

Until decisions were made by the New Zealand government, hope was all expats like Moore have.

I hope we can be allowed to hope soon.

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