Staffer at NZ High Commission in India dies of Covid-19 despite social media plea

A staff member battling Covid-19 for whom the New Zealand High Commission in India made a controversial plea for oxygen on Twitter has died.  

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There are six other staff members in India who have Covid-19.

"I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of a long-serving New Zealand High Commission employee in Delhi," Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta confirmed this afternoon.

"Our thoughts and aroha are with the family at this time. Any loss of life is extremely sad."

There are six other staff members of the High Commission in India who have had Covid-19. "All are recovering and are symptom-free, and three have now tested negative," Mahuta later clarified. 

Mahuta said the man's colleagues would need time to process "what has happened under extenuating circumstances of this global pandemic".

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Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said today that commercial flights are being considered to repatriate Kiwi staff. Source: 1 NEWS

He joined the commission in 1986, serving during the time when Sir Edmund Hillary was the High Commissioner to India. 

The man, who was an Indian citizen, died on May 16. Mahuta confirmed he was the man central to the plea on Twitter for oxygen from the commission. 

The commission earlier this month asked the Indian Youth Congress, the youth wing of the country's main opposition party, for help providing an oxygen cylinder. The youth congress' national convener told Breakfast the organisation delivered one within half an hour and that it wasn’t giving the commission preferential treatment. 

The Twitter request, which was quickly deleted, led to a warning from India’s Ministry of External Affairs to embassies about hoarding oxygen. 

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They’re all local staff and their family that live at the New Delhi compound. Source: 1 NEWS

The Indian Youth Congress defended the delivery of the oxygen and told 1 NEWS on May 3 it was done to "save a life".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said also on May 3 the New Zealand High Commission in India should have used "normal channels and protocols", but acknowledged why the commission made the plea as the person was "very unwell". 

She said the New Zealand Government is doing all it could to keep both Kiwis and locals working at the commission safe, including introducing bubble arrangements and strict protocols.   

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The NZ High Commission asked the Indian Youth Congress for help, leading to a warning about embassies hoarding. Source: Breakfast

Mahuta said today while the commission "used the wrong channels, they did as much as they could to ensure his care should be provided".

She said she did not know if there was oxygen available at the commission, "but I suspect not at the time".