"I never imagined it would be so long"

Tim is a pilot who flies medical equipment around the world. Though he has lived in Hong Kong for the past six years, he would normally come home every six to eight weeks. Before he left again in March, Helen says they begged him not to go but he had no choice but to return to work. “At that point I thought: ‘We’re not going to see him for a while,’ but I never, ever imagined it would be as long as it has been.”

As the pandemic worsened and international travel restrictions tightened, returning to the UK became impossible. “If he came home for a week, he’d have to quarantine for two weeks back in Hong Kong and he couldn’t get that much time off work,” Helen says. Tim was finally given special leave to come home in January, but that went out the window when the Hong Kong government upped quarantine to three weeks.

“That tipped me over the edge, to be honest,” she says tearfully, reflecting on the fact that he has spent most of the pandemic alone. “He’s missed a year out of the children’s lives and they’ve missed a year out of his. I’m aware we’re not the only family in this situation, but it’s really beginning to take a toll on us.”