Covid travel rules leave Wigan couple 'separated and trapped' for eight months

Pippa Leslie, from Ashton, and partner Chris Mortensen, feel 'trapped' and currently live on opposite sides of the world

Friday, 25th June 2021, 3:29 pm

A couple who have been separated because of Covid-related travel restrictions are urging governments around the world to do more so they can be reunited.

Pippa Leslie, from Ashton, and her partner Chris Mortensen, met in 2019, but have not seen each other for eight months.

In November, Chris had to leave the UK to be with his children Wyatt, six, and Roark, 10, and they are living in New Zealand

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Chris with his children Wyatt, six, and Roark, 10
Chris with his children Wyatt, six, and Roark, 10

And Chris, 49, was told that he had to choose between Pippa, 30, and his children, and even though the pair asked if they could both go, he had to make the choice to make the trip alone.

Before this, Chris hadn’t seen his boys for 12 months, and despite many attempts to get Pippa into the country, they were denied several times. Now Chris awaits a work visa which even then may not guarantee Pippa will get into the country.

Under strict Covid travel rules to New Zealand, the border is currently closed to almost all arrivals.

Travellers to the country from very high risk countries are temporarily restricted to New Zealand citizens, their partners, dependent children and the parent of a dependent child who is a citizen. All non-New Zealand citizens must hold a valid visa to enter, and due to this the couple’s hope is that Chris will get the work visa and Pippa will be allowed to go there.

Chris Mortensen with Pippa Leslie

Pippa, who is currently living with her parents, said: “We met online through a podcast, he’s from Los Angeles and I’m from Ashton. We went over to LA and spent some time and he flew over in May and stayed in Wigan for six months.

“He then had to be in New Zealand to see his children as his ex lives there. We decided we’d go there and make a life but we’ve not been able to for all of these months.”

Despite being fully vaccinated and willing to pay £5,000 fees for New Zealand quarantine, Pippa has not been able to leave the country and said both her and Chris feel “trapped”.

She said she has even sold her home, shipped her belongings and “gave up everything”.

She said: “I am trapped here and so is Chris in New Zealand. He cannot leave the country and I cannot go anywhere. We plead for help. We are due to be married in December this year and we just want to be together.

“He is a single parent in a foreign country, no friends or family. Just his two young boys who needed him.”

She added: “We did not think we would be apart for this long and need the authorities especially in New Zealand to do more."

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