Google co-founder Larry Page granted entry to New Zealand despite border closure, report says

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<span>Photograph: John G Mabanglo/EPA</span>
Photograph: John G Mabanglo/EPA

The billionaire co-founder of Google Larry Page was reportedly granted entry into New Zealand, despite the border being closed to non-residents.

Stuff reported that Page, who is the sixth-richest person in the world, visited the country after his child fell ill in Fiji and required hospital treatment in New Zealand.

New Zealand businessman and multimillionaire Sir Stephen Tindall, who knows Page, said the billionaire has spent the Covid-19 pandemic in Fiji.

He told Stuff Page’s young child required treatment at Auckland’s Starship children’s hospital. The visit took place “quite a while ago”.

New Zealand has extremely strict border controls in place, requiring returnees to spend two weeks in a government-run Managed Isolation and Quarantine Facility (MIQ), in order to sustain its Covid-19 elimination strategy.

Related: ‘No roadmap’: New Zealand mulls reopening options after a year of closed borders

Entry is so tough that desperate New Zealand citizens are complaining of extreme difficulty in securing a place in managed isolation.

Entry is mostly reserved for New Zealand citizens and permanent residents, but special approvals can be made if someone needs to travel for “critical purposes”, including health reasons. This category requires approval from the Ministry of Health or a District Health Board.

Immigration NZ said that Page met the requirements to be approved entry into New Zealand, despite not being a permanent resident. It did not reveal if Page is a New Zealand citizen.

Immigration NZ refused to comment further on the case, including the grounds for approving his entry and whether he was required to spend two weeks in managed isolation, citing privacy concerns.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters this morning she was not aware Page had 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.”

Ardern said she trusted clinicians to make decisions about what was best for a patient, and that it was not necessarily important for her to know someone’s private medical details.

The Ministry of Health also refused to comment on individual patients or whether Page required an urgent flight.

But it said anyone requesting a medevac flight by definition required immediate treatment, and therefore do not undergo managed isolation.

In the year ending 30 June, 99 patients had been accepted for medical treatment via medevac flights, with most people living in the Pacific Islands, the ministry said.

The Guardian has requested comment from Page and Tindall.

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