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Ardern: NZ High Commission in India should have used ‘normal channels’ to get oxygen amid Covid-19 crisis

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the New Zealand High Commission in India should have used “normal channels and protocols” to secure oxygen for a person they say is critically ill with Covid-19. 

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Jacinda Ardern Minister says the high commission has been “very well supported” by the Indian government through the country’s Covid-19 crisis. Source: Breakfast

It comes as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs apologised to the Indian government after the New Zealand High Commission sent out a plea on Twitter yesterday. 

The commission 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 convenor told Breakfast the organisation delivered one within half an hour and that it wasn’t giving the commission preferential treatment. 

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'All these embassies are guests' - Delivery of oxygen to NZ High Commission in India defended

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

Ardern said of the commission this morning: “They should have been using those normal channels and protocols.”

She added: “The High Commission themselves have removed that tweet and acknowledged that wasn't the process that should have been used. They’ve done that, they’ve corrected that.”

She confirmed one person working in the commission’s compound, an Indian national, was “very unwell” and acknowledged why the commission might have done what it did.

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

But, Ardern added, “there are other means and channels” because the commission was “very well supported by the Indian government” through the pandemic. 

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

The soaring Covid-19 infection rates in the Asian country, however, meant it is “a very difficult environment to ensure there’s no infection”, she said. 

Ardern said many Kiwis had also come home, but that New Zealand needs to continue to be able to provide consular assistance to New Zealanders abroad. 

The Indian Youth Congress has defended the delivery of the oxygen and told 1 NEWS it was done to “save a life”.

National convenor Manu Jain said the commission’s request was only one of many they received on social media. 

“We are trying to help as many people as we can.”

Jain said the organisation didn’t want to “go into muddy politics” because they provided all people with assistance. 

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National convenor Manu Jain denies the High Commission received special treatment after it called for help on social media. Source: Breakfast

“If somebody’s pleading for help, it’s our responsibility to help them out.” 

India recorded a drop in new infections with 392,488 from a high of 401,993 in the previous 24 hours, the Associated Press reports.

It also reported 3689 additional deaths, bringing the total to 215,542. Experts believe both figures are an undercount.