Coronavirus: Boy, 7, reunited with mother in UAE thanks to Ruler of RAK

Archie Appleyard's mother was stuck abroad after the UAE shut its borders in March to stem the spread of Covid-19

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A seven-year-old boy who appealed to the Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah to help bring his mother home has finally been reunited with her after more than two months apart.

Archie Appleyard wrote to Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi to explain his mother, Jessica Fitzjohn, was stranded in Britain after the UAE closed its borders in March.

Jessica Fitzjohn had intended to take a five-day trip to the UK to attend her father’s funeral.

Sheikh Saud intervened after reading the heartfelt letter and ensured Ms Fitzjohn was flown back to the Emirates.

They hugged for the first time in 67 days on Wednesday, in the lobby of the hotel where she spent her 14-day quarantine on her return to the country.

She said there were times when it felt the separation would never end.

“I really don’t think the penny has dropped yet,” said Ms Fitzjohn, who still uses her maiden name.

“I thought it might have dropped when I was in quarantine but it still hasn’t. I’m kind of waiting,” she said.

Ms Fitzjohn had never spent more than one night away from her son until she flew back to say goodbye to her father in February.

Archie Appleyard and his father Richard welcome back Jessica Fitzjohn. Courtesy Ras Al Khaimah Government Media Office  

“Everyone stuck outside [the UAE] completely understood why they had to do it, but there was no end in sight,” said Ms Fitzjohn.

The situation felt similarly hopeless to Archie. And after becoming increasingly desperate and spending “52 sleeps” thousands of miles from his mum, he wrote to Sheikh Saud.

Within eight hours he received a reply saying how proud the royal was of Archie, and how he hoped bringing her home would make him smile.

And just 24 hours after he initially sent his note, Ms Fitzjohn touched down in Dubai and was on her way back to Ras Al Khaimah in a chauffer-driven car accompanied by a police escort.

A video of the reunion shared by the RAK Media Office shows a tearful Archie running through the lobby before leaping into her arms.

“I am extremely proud of him. It was amazing, really very lovely. We all feel very fortunate,” she said.

Thousands of residents who had been on holiday or abroad for business at the time the UAE shut its borders became stranded abroad. Some have been given permission to fly back since, but the majority are still waiting for clearance to fly.

The government has said residents will be able to return from June 1, provided they meet specific criteria.

Residents must register in the service titled Residents' Entry Permit on the website smartservices.ica.gov.ae.

“There are two WhatsApp groups I am still part of for people stuck abroad. I haven’t been able to bring myself away yet,” said Ms Fitzjohn.

“They are on mute now as they ping all day long with people trying to complete the forms and come back home. So I hope that gets easier for everyone.”

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