Tears of sadness and exhaustion

Cornelia Jost-Barth won’t forget the first wave of the pandemic in a hurry. An emotional look back to spring 2020.

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“When the lockdown was imposed and the borders were closed in mid-March, we were receiving hundreds of emails and telephone calls every day from concerned members of the public about the new border arrangements. Our people were working in the evenings and at weekends – we very nearly buckled under the pressure.

One story touched me in particular: a woman from Ticino, whose husband worked for the Italian government in Jakarta and could not get home owing to the travel restrictions, wasn’t able to look after her two young sons because she was permanently on duty as an anaesthetist at a Ticino hospital. As a key worker in the healthcare sector, the pandemic hit her family particularly hard. Having two young children of my own, I was very moved by her story – there were times when I broke down in tears after a phone call. After a great deal of effort and negotiations over several days, her husband was finally able to return home.

That was just one of many cases we had to deal with. Both the callers and the helpdesk staff were at their physical and emotional limits – sometimes we had no idea what to do next. The task force created new structures, improved procedures and provided additional resources. Fortunately the situation has since improved and we now have enough time again to deal with everyone’s concerns.”

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Cornelia Jost-Barth works in the entry division of the Directorate for Immigration and Integration. She is responsible for visa matters, besides other business.