Billionaire Google co-founder Larry Page was allowed to enter New Zealand earlier this year, even as the country barred non-residents from coming to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Page, who is the sixth-richest person in the world with a net worth of about $121 billion, was allowed to enter the country after his son fell ill in Fiji and Page requested hospital treatment in New Zealand, reports said.
Page and his family have been riding out much of the COVID-19 pandemic in Fiji.
New Zealand’s Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi told reporters that Page applied for a medical exemption “to make sure his son got the treatment that was required,” Agence France-Presse reported.
Health Minister Andrew Little was grilled about the visit in parliament.
He said an application was approved in January for a child, accompanied by an adult, to be medevaced from Fiji, according to the AFP.
“I’m advised all of the normal steps occurred in this case,” Little reportedly said.
Officials declined to provide details on the illness or how urgently medical care was needed, citing privacy laws.
Immigration New Zealand general manager of border and visa operations Nicola Hogg told AFP that Page “met relevant requirements” to gain entry.
Hogg did not say whether Page spent two weeks in quarantine, as required of people entering New Zealand under the country’s current pandemic restrictions.
Kiwi Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is facing heat over Page’s admittance to the country, with critics pointing to how difficult it’s been for citizens to reenter the country during the pandemic.
Ardern told reporters Thursday morning she was not aware that Page had ever been in New Zealand.
“Nor would I be,” Ardern said. “We have roughly, in any given year, roughly 100 medevacs into New Zealand. The decision for a patient to be part of a medevac is made by clinicians.
“I’m not advised of every single individual … at any given time because politicians do not make those decisions, nor should they.”
David Seymour, the leader of New Zealand’s opposition ACT Party, called on the government to be more transparent about Page’s visit.
“The Government has questions to answer about why billionaire Google co-founder Larry Page was allowed into New Zealand when desperate Kiwis and separated families can’t get through the border,” he said in a statement.
He added that New Zealand nationals have faced obstacles entering the country.
New Zealand implemented notoriously strict border controls during the pandemic, requiring people entering the country to spend two weeks in a government-run Managed Isolation and Quarantine Facility (MIQ).
“In the meantime, MIQ is booked months in advance, bots are making it impossible to book a space, Kiwis are stranded overseas and migrant workers are separated from their children.”
“I have had to tell them, ‘sorry, but there is no way you can get through the border, Government policy will not allow it,’” he added.
“New Zealanders stranded overseas who are desperate to get home deserve answers.”