Heartbroken Auckland couple can't visit hospitalised premature baby after becoming close contacts of COVID case

An Auckland couple is heartbroken they can't visit their premature baby currently being cared for in Auckland Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.

Tiffany Mao and Gray Royston haven't been able to see their 13-day-old son Boston for 10 days because they're close contacts of a COVID-19 case. But they aren't halfway through their ordeal yet - they have to isolate for 28 days because the COVID case is in a garage on their property.

Boston was born almost two-and-a-half months early, and his parents are devastated they can't be with him.

"We FaceTime him and he can hear us and he's looking around wondering - I'm going to start crying - he's wondering where mum and dad are, like, not touching him," Mao says.

Royston, Mao, and her younger brother were told to isolate at home four days after Boston was born after Mao's dad tested positive for COVID-19. They've done 10 days so far, and at no point have any of them tested positive or shown any symptoms.

They thought they'd be isolating for two weeks, but have just discovered it's actually 28 days all up.

Boston is also in isolation in NICU, and not even the nurses can hold him.

"He hasn't been held for the last ten days because he's not allowed out of his incubator," Royston says

"Our son has tested negative three times," Mao adds.

The Ministry of Health confirmed on Sunday afternoon that close contacts have to do a further 14 days of isolation once the person with COVID-19 is no longer infectious.

Mao's dad stays in a garage on the property, but they've had no contact with him since starting isolation and they say he doesn't have to do a further 14 days.

Also, Royston is fully vaccinated and Mao has had one dose.

Tiffany Mao and Gray Royston with baby Boston.
Tiffany Mao and Gray Royston with baby Boston. Photo credit: Newshub.

Not seeing their first-born baby is tearing them to shreds.

"We're just talking to him, comforting him," Royston says.

"We just say, 'We love you, son, we'll hopefully see you soon'," Mao says.

"He can definitely pick up our voices over the phone," Royston adds.

The pair did get to hold Boston in his first few days before they knew they were a contact of a case. 

Mao is pumping her breast milk for a relative to pick up and deliver to the hospital and she also reads to Boston over FaceTime.

"Anybody who has had a baby knows that it's natural to cuddle and kiss and talk and sing and be with your child," says Neonatal Trust executive director Rachel Friend.

"If a child doesn't have that possibility, that can have implications later in life and it could be long-term, life-long complications."

While Mao and Royston want to thank the nurses for caring for their baby, they just want to be at his side to support him as he fights to get stronger.