Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the bizarre Twitter request for oxygen from the New Zealand High Commission in India was for a sick local staff member.
Ms Ardern told TVNZ’s Breakfast that the strange public order for more oxygen from the High Commission was for a local staff member who lived on the compound and had contracted COVID-19.
She said the complex had been under lockdown for the better part of the year and that many New Zealanders had already been sent home.
It follows a surreal sequence of events that began on Sunday (NZ time), when the New Zealand High Commission in India sent out a tweet asking India’s main opposition party’s youth leader for assistance in supplying oxygen.
The oxygen was supplied and approved, but the matter quickly became embroiled in a contentious domestic Indian political dispute over the country’s response to COVID-19, which is currently causing a massive outbreak.
Ms Ardern told The AM Show that the embassy should not have asked a politician instead of the government.
“They have forms and means through the government – through the Indian government – that they could have accessed help,” Ms Ardern said.
Following the incident, India’s Ministry of External Affairs advised international embassies not to “hoard oxygen,” according to NDTV.com.
In recent weeks, India has struggled to provide enough oxygen for those suffering from acute Covid-19 symptoms, leading to the emergence of a black market to take advantage of the shortages.
“Can you please help with oxygen cylinder at the New Zealand High Commission, thank you,” read a tweet from the Commission’s Twitter account addressed to the Indian Youth Congress (IYC).
Since then, the tweet has been removed.
The Indian National Congress’s youth wing is known as the IYC.
A group of men deliver two big oxygen canisters to the High Commission, according to a video posted on Twitter by IYC president Srinivas BV.
According to BV’s tweet, the oxygen was approved and was for a critically ill patient within.
The initial tweet was sent in error, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“It has since been removed, and we have apologized for any confusion it might have caused, including to the Indian government.”
“All we have to say is that the security, health, and welfare of our employees in India and throughout our global network is a top priority.”
The statement didn’t say whether anyone or something was ill at the High Commission.
Gerry Brownlee, a spokesman for the National Party’s foreign affairs committee, said the individual who sent the tweet should face disciplinary action right away.
“Unless there was a crisis, it is absolutely inappropriate the that tweet was sent from inside the High Commission.”
If it is due to a crisis situation, the public in New Zealand must be informed.”