Diplomacy

'Very Unwell' COVID-19 Patient in New Zealand Mission When it Asked for Oxygen: Kiwi PM

The New Zealand mission has apologised for not using the "proper channels" while looking for oxygen supply.

New Delhi: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday confirmed that the high commission in Delhi had apologised for asking for not using “normal channels and protocols” to seek an oxygen cylinder, but pointed out that there had been a “very unwell” staff member.

On Sunday, Indian external affairs minister S. Jaishankar got into a twitter spat with Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, claiming that the Youth Congress had sent two “unsolicited” oxygen cylinders to the Philippines embassy in search of “fake publicity”.

A minute after Jaishankar tweeted his rebuttal, the New Zealand high commission posted an urgent appeal for oxygen cylinders and tagged the Indian Youth Congress chief, Srinivas B.V.

The tweet was later deleted, with the high commission adding that it was “trying all sources to arrange for oxygen cylinders urgently”.

While Jaishankar did not specifically react to the New Zealand high commission’s tweet, the Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement that it was responding to COVID-19-related medical demands of foreign missions. “Given the pandemic situation, all are urged not to hoard essential supplies, including oxygen,” said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi on Sunday.

As reported by The Wire on Sunday, both the Filipino and Kiwi foreign missions had apologised for using Twitter for their SOS calls – both of which were answered by Srinivas and his team.

A day later, the New Zealand prime minister told a local television channel that the high commission had apologised, adding that there was a “very unwell” patient within the compound.

“There was a message that was put out. Our high commission has apologised as there are channels that they should be going through for such matters, but we should recognise that there is a local staff member in the compound who has been very unwell,” she said. Local staff employed at foreign missions are Indian nationals.

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Ardern stated that “there are other means and channels” because the mission was “very well supported by the Indian government” through the pandemic.

She noted that the 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 Indian capital is one of the hotspots of the devastating second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India. It has been facing a major deficit in supply of oxygen to hospitals and private individuals, with the courts forced to step in to monitor supply on a daily basis.

The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to meet the daily demand of 700 metric tonne of oxygen for Delhi – which was a 133% increase from the allocation of 490 metric tonne right now. It has asked for the deficit to be met “on or before the midnight of 3 May”.

Nearly every foreign embassy in Delhi is witnessing several positive COVID-19 cases. CNN had reported last week that there were 100 cases along among the US diplomatic staff spread out through the country. There was no confirmation from the US embassy of this number.

Last week, the defence attache of Tanzania passed away from COVID-19, becoming the first foreign diplomat in Delhi to die from the virus.