Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta says a long-serving staff member at the New Zealand High Commission in India has died of Covid-19.
Mahuta said it was a local staffer, not a New Zealander, who passed away on May 16 in an Indian hospital. She said she was confident that New Zealand staff provided all the support "as best as they could" to the staffer.
"I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of a long-serving New Zealand High Commission employee in New Delhi. Our thoughts and aroha are with the family at this time," Mahuta told media today.
"Any loss of life is extremely sad, and I know the Mfat [Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade] whanau will be grieving at this time, and they need time to process what has happened.
The staff member joined the High Commission in 1968, during the time that Sir Edmund Hillary was New Zealand's High Commissioner to India.
"New Zealand truly values and supports the work he gave to subsequent heads of mission, New Zealand staff and our country," Mahuta said. "I join with Mfat in expressing sadness for the loss of life."
NZ High Commission's India oxygen plea
The New Zealand High Commission apologised to the Indian government at the start of May for issuing an urgent plea for an oxygen cylinder on Twitter.
Video circulating on Twitter appears to show an oxygen tank being delivered to the High Commission in New Delhi, before it is carried inside the commission gates.
The commission originally tweeted to the Indian Youth Congress and its national president Srinivas BV: "Could you please help with oxygen cylinder urgently at the New Zealand High Commission? Thank you."
Srinivas BV responded promptly, saying they would come to assist.
The High Commission's tweet was then deleted, and replaced with: "We are trying all sources to arrange for oxygen cylinders urgently and our appeal has unfortunately been misinterpreted, for which we are sorry."
Mahuta said: "He was an Indian citizen. While they used the wrong channels, they did as much as they could to ensure his care could be provided for."
"The intent was legitimate, which was to secure oxygen for this person."
She said she did not know whether there was any oxygen available at the High Commission at the time and that those at the precinct did what they could at the time.
"He was an in-country staff member, and to my knowledge, they did as much as they could to care for him."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also said a plea over Twitter for oxygen was inappropriate, but that disciplinary action against the staff member who sent the tweet would be wrong.
The person had been under incredible pressure, the locally employed staff member was critically ill, and she said she could "only imagine that would have felt like a desperate situation".
There were still six people with Covid-19 at the commission, Mahuta said. None were New Zealand citizens, she said, but was not 100 per cent sure. None were in a critical condition.
New Zealand was "not in a position to undertake repatriation flights at this time," Mahuta said, and noted that "right now repatriation through commercial flights is the avenue".
Asked if extra support was needed, she said: "New Zealand is doing as much as it can through its embassies to care for its people."