A staff member at the New Zealand High Commission in New Delhi has died of Covid-19.
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) whānau need time to process what has happened under extenuating circumstances of this global pandemic.”
The staff member had started at the Commission in 1986 under Sir Edmund Hillary, who was high commissioner at the time.
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.
The High Commission recently apologised for asking for an oxygen cylinder via Twitter to treat a local staff member who was sick a fortnight ago.
At the time, it confirmed several locally hired staff had Covid-19, one was seriously unwell and no New Zealand diplomatic staff in India had the virus.
‘No plans to return more NZ staff’
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told RNZ two New Zealand employees in New Delhi had flown home since the latest surge in Covid-19 cases there.
An MFAT spokesperson said the High Commission in New Delhi had put in place health measures to treat unwell staff or family members who live on the compound.
“We have enough medical equipment and supplies to meet our needs.
“More broadly, we have provisions in place to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 to staff and their families overseas. All outbound New Zealand staff are vaccinated against Covid-19, and posted staff can choose to return to New Zealand.”
Other measures include the ability to fully lockdown their offices and reduce staff numbers in the office, ensure vulnerable staff are not in high-risk areas, and supply of PPE and health advice.
There are more than 1100 MFAT seconded staff, their dependents and locally engaged staff at posts throughout the world.
Flights from India have been severely restricted and New Zealand citizens have called for government repatriation flights since the travel ban from India lifted at the end of last month.
The Human Rights Commission has also urged the government to repatriate its citizens from Covid-19-ravaged countries.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has ruled that out however, and on Friday said she also had no plans to help charter flights organised privately. People were warned not to travel, she said, commercial flights might resume, and some passengers had managed to buy flights from India to other countries.
Australia began government repatriation flights after it lifted its travel ban on citizens flying from India on the weekend.
In a statement, MFAT said it had no plans to return more New Zealand staff from the group of ‘very high-risk countries’ – Brazil, India, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea.
“Two MFAT staff who were in New Delhi on short-term relief assignments have returned to New Zealand since 1 April,” an MFAT spokesperson said in a statement yesterday.
“These staff returned as scheduled on pre-booked commercial flights.
“There are no current plans to return further staff from MFAT posts in very high-risk countries however, posted staff can choose to return to New Zealand on available commercial options. MFAT reviews risk assessments and safe staffing settings regularly for all posts.”