Rotorua dad forced to choose work over birth of triplets after Auckland COVID-19 border exemption rejected

A Rotorua father faces the prospect of missing the birth of his triplets after his application for an exemption to get through Auckland's southern border was denied.

The rejection letter leaves Kevin Acutt forced to pick earning a living for his family over one of the most significant moments of his life.

His wife Amber went into premature labour during the nationwide alert level 4 lockdown last month - just 23 weeks into her pregnancy - but staff at Waikato Hospital were able to put a stop to her contractions.

Since then, she's been having regular scans at Auckland City Hospital's maternal foetal medicine unit - and last Friday she was admitted there permanently as she requires close monitoring for abnormal umbilical cord flow.

Currently, the triplets are in a stable condition - but the couple have been advised it's still a high-risk pregnancy, and things could change at any moment.

If one of them takes a turn for the worse, it'll prompt an emergency procedure requiring swift removal of the babies, and likely the need to promptly resuscitate them.

"She's still got about six weeks of the pregnancy to go - but it could happen tomorrow, could happen the next day, it could happen five weeks from now," Kelvin told Newshub.

The only problem is whenever the birth happens, Kelvin looks unlikely to be able to be there unless alert levels change.

His application for an exemption to be allowed past Auckland's boundary was rejected by the Ministry of Health on Tuesday.

Kelvin Acutt with his wife Amber and their baby daughter.
Kelvin Acutt with his wife Amber and their baby daughter. Photo credit: Supplied

"The criteria for being granted a personal travel exemption includes an assessment of whether you can delay or avoid travelling; if there is a risk to life, health or safety if we do not grant the personal travel exemption; and the overall risk to public health.

"Based on the information you have given us we have determined your need for travelling is not essential right now," the ministry said in its rejection letter.

Kelvin is currently with Amber in Auckland, but plans to leave her this weekend so he can return to work on Monday as a diesel mechanic. He says the thought of leaving her in hospital by herself is scary and unbearable for both of them, but he has to head back to Rotorua.

"I'll have to go back. I don't have a choice, unfortunately," he said, citing a lack of leave and the need to earn a living for his family.

Kelvin understands why he doesn't fit the exemption criteria, but believes he's only missed out because his situation is so exceptional that the Ministry of Health didn't make a rule for it.

"We've fallen into a category that doesn't really exist at the moment, because you can go to appointments as a support person, but our appointment has turned into a whole 'however long she might be'," he told Newshub.

"There's a person there looking at the criteria, and [our situation] doesn't fit into boxes. They're not seeing it as people on the other end - they're just seeing it's an exceptional thing.

"The frustrating thing is you can't talk face-to-face with someone, you know? You're just emailing unknown people at a Government address."

Kelvin is now publicly calling on the Ministry of Health to change their decision to allow him to be there for one of the most momentous occasions in his life.

"All I wanted was a piece of paper that said 'my wife's got a very high-risk pregnancy and is going into labour'. I need to be there with her because she's going to be up there all by herself."

He's asking the ministry to show humanity.

"What's the point? What are we doing this whole COVID lockdown thing for? It's for the people, it's for humanity. But what's the point, if we're going to lose our humanity along the way?" he said.

"We're stopping people from burying the dead, from witnessing the birth of new life. What's the point of carrying on if we're going to stop doing that?"

Newshub has contacted the Ministry of Health for comment.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Tuesday that of roughly 6000 border exemption applications received, only about 800 had been accepted - just over 13 percent.

From 11:59pm on Tuesday, people with evidence of a negative test can leave Auckland if they are moving permanently, have shared custody arrangements, or are returning home to level 2.