Standing in a queue snaking through Auckland Airport a few days before New Zealand went into lock down, Carolyn Kelly and husband Mark Johnston made an impossible decision.

They were supposed to move to Glasgow on Tuesday to start their new lives, but their Emirates flight was cancelled at the last minute, well before the national lockdown began at 11.59pm Wednesday.

Their travel agent managed to get the pair one ticket out, leaving late last Monday.
She told them to race to the airport and try to get another ticket.

On the way, Kelly spoke to her son about her idea.


"I said to my son, 'I think I need to tell your dad to go'."

"I thought, 'If we don't do this, we're going to go backwards, we're not going to go forwards'."

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise how you can use these simple daily precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Video / CDC
Carolyn Kelly told her husband t take the only available plane ticket to Glasgow after their flights were canceled at the last minute. Photo / Supplied
Carolyn Kelly told her husband t take the only available plane ticket to Glasgow after their flights were canceled at the last minute. Photo / Supplied

Their travel agent managed to find one ticket out, leaving Monday night and told them to race there to try to secure another ticket.

"When we walked through those doors and I saw the huge group of people, I thought 'All these people have really good reasons to go'.

"We stood for two to three hours in the queue and talked about the possibility of him going without me. I suggested it, he didn't like it.

"We'd just handed over our keys to our flats, resigned from our jobs, had this month visa on our hands…that's what was going through my mind.

"It was really tough. I felt quite clear-headed at the time. I knew it was a good idea."

Johnston was "really reluctant" at the thought of leaving her in New Zealand, Kelly said.


"He listened, but he wasn't receptive at first. I had to let him adjust to the idea, So we just let it sit for a while.

"By the time we got to the checkout, we realised there wasn't going to be another ticket."

Just before they parted, their travel agent, who'd worked tirelessly to help them get to Glasgow, rang to see how they went.

"We told her our decision and she started to cry and we started to cry. We waited until the last minute."

"With him going it's terribly hard, we're very close. It's still very painful, I must say, and I know a lot of people are in a worse situation."

Mark Johnston has been in Glasgow without his wife since last week. Photo / Supplied
Mark Johnston has been in Glasgow without his wife since last week. Photo / Supplied

Increasing border closures have split up thousands of families and couples and disrupted the visas and travel plans of stranded New Zealanders internationally.


Around 20 Kiwis and 150 Australians are stuck aboard a cruise ship after a trip of a lifetime to Antarctica took a turn and was refused entry to its return port in Argentina.

In Christchurch, a British critical care nurse is desperate to get home and back to work at a Lancashire Hospital, but is trapped because of New Zealand's lockdown.

Queenstown-based British snowboard instructor Lara Suleyman, who has started a Facebook group Get Us Home.UK, says she has registered 2900 British travellers who are itching to get home.

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Johnston safety arrived in Glasgow and Kelly is now staying with family in Auckland.

Shortly after he arrived Kelly received a photo of him and their daughter, who is based over there. They will hunker down together as the UK enters lockdown.


"When I saw that photo, I realised that's why I made the decision," Kelly said.

She's now in limbo and desperate to join them. With the window on her visa slowing closing, Kelly hopes she can get there, somehow.

"The irony about this is I've done training in disaster spiritual care. That's partly why I need to be there, to support the university community.

"It's not just the physical essential services we need to help people to cope with these challenges and help our communities to remain healthy."

She's really supportive of the measures to reduce the transmission of Covid-19, but it needs to be done with care, she said.

"We know this could be a humanitarian crises of people's wellbeing and personal health and I think people in supportive roles need to be able to do our jobs."


"Can't we work together to move people who have a really good reason, or could we have a set of criteria and if they meet it then they will be prioritised for a flight?"

She has a flight booked in two weeks, but isn't confident it'll fly.

"I haven't got much of a window really to get our visa sorted...I don't have much here apart from my lovely family and friends, who I thought I'd said goodbye to." The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website