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Friday, June 18, 2021

Staffer, for whom New Zealand mission had sought oxygen, passes away

The staffer had started at the High Commission in 1986, when Sir Edmund Hillary was High Commissioner.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: May 20, 2021 6:53:22 am
New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said the man, an Indian citizen, died in hospital two days ago.

An Indian staffer suffering from Covid-19, for whom the New Zealand High Commission had sought help in early May, has passed away in a hospital in Delhi.

The staffer had started at the High Commission in 1986, when Sir Edmund Hillary was High Commissioner.

New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said the man, an Indian citizen, died in hospital two days ago.

“As you can imagine, we’ve given the embassy time to process what’s happened,” she said. “Everyone was living on compound like a family. Our thoughts and aroha are with the family at this time.

“Any loss of life is extremely sad and I know that MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) need time to process what has happened under extenuating circumstances of this global pandemic,” Mahuta said.

She said New Zealand valued highly the work and support the employee had given to several heads of mission.

Mahuta said another six High Commission staffers had contracted the virus. None were symptomatic, and three had tested negative now.

In early May, the New Zealand High Commission had apologised after asking for an oxygen cylinder via Twitter to treat a local staff member who had fallen sick a fortnight ago.

At the time, it had confirmed several locally hired staff had Covid-19 and one was seriously unwell, but had said no New Zealand diplomatic staff in India had the virus.

The situation had then led to a spat between the government and the Opposition Congress, and the MEA spokesperson had said that “given the pandemic situation, all are urged not to hoard essential supplies, including oxygen”.

After the New Zealand High Commission requested help from Youth Congress president Srinivas B V for an oxygen cylinder, Srinivas had responded: “Right away. Please share further details in DM.”

After Youth Congress workers reached the High Commission with cylinders, Srinivas tweeted: “We have reached New Zealand High Commission with oxygen cylinders. Please open the gates and save a soul on time.”

But the High Commission had, meanwhile, deleted the tweet and posted another: “We are trying all sources to arrange for oxygen cylinders urgently and our appeal has unfortunately been misinterpreted, for which we are sorry.”

Srinivas later put out a video clip of Youth Congress workers entering the High Commission with a cylinder. “New Zealand high commission opened gates of the embassy and accepted cylinders. Also, they thanked the #SOSIYC team for this quick relief as the patient inside the embassy was critically ill,” he tweeted.

In a statement, the New Zealand Foreign Ministry said it was saddened that a respected and long-serving locally engaged employee at the High Commission in New Delhi has passed away.

“Our thoughts are with the staff member’s family and the High Commission team in New Delhi. The employee died in hospital on 16 May after a battle with COVID-19. Out of respect for the family’s privacy we are not releasing further details,” the Ministry said.

Mahuta confirmed that the plea for oxygen from the High Commission had been for this staff member. The High Commission had subsequently apologised for breaching diplomatic protocol by appealing by social media.

“While they used the wrong channels they did as much as they could to ensure that his care could be provided for… They did as much as they can to care for him,” Mahuta said.

She said she did not know if there was oxygen available now on the High Commission’s premises. “New Zealand is doing as much as it can through its embassies to support its people,” she said.

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