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Covid-19: Aunt of 8-year-old boy who died of cancer makes desperate plea for funeral exemption

Eight-year-old William Stuart is remembered by his family as "funny", "extroverted" and someone who loved to make others smile.

Mark Stuart/Supplied

Eight-year-old William Stuart is remembered by his family as “funny”, “extroverted” and someone who loved to make others smile.

The aunt of an eight-year-old Auckland boy who died of cancer is pleading with the government to grant her a travel exemption to attend the Auckland funeral.

Blenheim resident Nicole Seymour is the aunt of William Stuart, who died last week.

William was diagnosed with Leukaemia when he was two and had fought it for six years, having had two bone marrow transplants and CAR T-cell therapy.

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Nicole Seymour (centre) was declined a travel exemption to attend her nephew's funeral in Auckland because aunts are not recognised as “immediate family”.

Nicole Seymour/Supplied

Nicole Seymour (centre) was declined a travel exemption to attend her nephew’s funeral in Auckland because aunts are not recognised as “immediate family”.

Seymour said she had “been through every step” of William’s journey with the family and that “it means the world” to her to attend the funeral.

Seymour had her travel exemption application declined twice by the Ministry of Health, as aunts were not considered “immediate family” by the ministry.

An email to Seymour from the ministry said, after two failed applications, subsequent applications would not be reviewed.

Seymour, sister to William’s father, said it was “heart-wrenching” to not be able to support her brother at the funeral, which is taking place on Wednesday.

William’s family in Auckland had also appealed to the Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield to make an exception for the case – through their local MP, David Seymour – but this was also declined.

The family are not related to David Seymour.

Nicole Seymour said she was fully vaccinated and had also returned a negative Covid-19 test result.

With less than 24 hours until the funeral, Seymour said she was still hopeful an exemption could be granted, despite being “emotionally exhausted” after trying for over a week.

William’s father, Mark Stuart, said it didn’t make sense for his sister’s application to be declined.

He said while his in-laws were easily granted exemptions to travel from other parts of New Zealand to Auckland for the funeral, it didn’t seem fair for the child’s aunt to not be counted as immediate family.

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“She’s very close to me, been through this whole journey of six years with [us] … this awful disease … and how many times he’s [William] beaten the illness,” said Stuart who added that his sister will be the only support from his side of the family.

Stuart is pleading with the government to review their processes for funeral related travel exemptions and said he didn’t want to see other families go through similar situations.

“It’s unfair, it’s cruel,” he said.

Stuart described William as “funny”, “extroverted”, loved playing with Lego and making people smile.

He said William had fought hard, having also previously survived pneumonia once, and the RSV virus twice.

ACT leader and Epsom MP David Seymour implored the Government to overturn the decision.

“The family is not asking for an MIQ space. The family member would be entering Auckland – not leaving the Covid hotspot,” he said.

“I am pleading with Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins, Ashley Bloomfield and Jacinda Ardern to be kind. Show some humanity. Allow this family to grieve together the loss of an 8-year-old boy.”

The Ministry of Health has been approached for comment.



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