Argentine parents, newborn baby separated 8,000 miles by virus

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Jose Perez and Flavia Lavorino in Buenos Aires have yet to meet their baby Manu, who was born via a surrogate mother in Kiev 8,000 miles (12,875 km) away as lockdowns around the world and shuttered borders prevented the new parents from traveling.

The Argentine couple, who have only seen pictures and video of Manu, are now trying to find ways to reach him in Ukraine, though they are struggling to obtain permission after the country imposed a ban on foreigners entering in March.

The Argentines are one of dozens of couples from around Europe and the United States who have been unable to collect their babies born to surrogate mothers in Ukraine. Surrogacy is legal in the country.

“Any parent who thinks about their child being far away knows the worry and the pain,” father Perez told Reuters in Argentina capital Buenos Aires. “I’d say the words ‘worry’ and ‘pain’ don’t even do justice describing the feelings we have.”

“It’s a very difficult situation. We get photos and video of Manu once a week. They did a video call with us when he turned one month, but it’s very hard.”

The Hotel Venice where Manu and the other children are stranded belongs to the clinic BioTexCom, which released video footage of the babies to raise public awareness and spur Ukraine’s government into acting more quickly.

The government says it can permit parents to enter Ukraine only if it receives a request from the relevant embassy.

Lavorino said the couple’s frustration was compounded by signs of more flights opening up and other couples seemingly being able to reach Kiev with diplomatic help.

“We don’t understand what the problem is. They still haven’t given us a logical answer as to why this can’t be worked out. There are flights,” she said.

“A month ago they told us that not a single flight came from Kiev, OK, so it was impossible then, but not now.”

People around the world are stuck in lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to the deaths of around 313,322 people and almost 5 million confirmed infections.

For Perez and Lavorino, however, being half a world away from their newborn Manu has proven extra hard.

“At one point they unofficially told us that they are dealing primarily with the most vulnerable,” Perez said. “And I wonder, is a 47-day-old baby not vulnerable? I think so.”

Reporting by Juan Bustamante in Buenos Aires; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Matthew Lewis