Larry Page, Google's co-founder and one of the world's billionaires, was able to fly to New Zealand and bring his son for an emergency medical procedure despite the country's strict border closure orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In a meeting with Parliament, Health Minister Andrew Little confirmed that Page applied for his son's emergency evacuation in early 2021. The health minister said that before approving the medevac, they conducted a thorough clinical assessment of the medical needs of Page's son.
They also evaluated if the boy could be treated locally so that they do not have to fly to New Zealand. Before the emergency evacuation, the boy was staying in Fiji. Little said that all the standard steps, including COVID-19 protocols, were carried out to approve this special request to receive treatments in Auckland at the Starship Children's Hospital.
Before the pandemic, New Zealand's Ministry of Health received about 100 requests for medevac (medical evacuation) every year. During the border closures, exemptions may be granted for residents of the country as New Zealand has succeeded in keeping its infection rates low since the start of the pandemic.
Is Larry Page an NZ Resident?
In the course of the inquiry with Parliament, Stuff reported that Page, who is from the U.S., applied for a special visa in November 2020 to secure residency as an investor. Under this arrangement, Page had to pour in $10 million to invest in New Zealand for three years.
However, his visa application was still under process when the family filed an urgent appeal due to a medical emergency. An Immigration New Zealand insider said that Page's residency isn't permanent and still subject to many restrictions.
Yet this has raised many questions about the privileges extended to the wealthy despite strict pandemic protocols. It opened up a debate in Parliament that implied billionaires could "buy" their status to get into the country.
Member of Parliament Brooke van Velden disagreed with the handling of Page's urgent request. He said that the New Zealand government showed the world that money is above anything else, especially with the thousands of citizens who cannot go home to be with their families because of the border closure.
Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said that clinicians, not the politicians, make the decisions on medevac cases. She added that she trusts the clinicians' decisions and said that she was not advised of Page's case or any other specific cases seeking medevac.
Larry Page's Net Worth
The Google co-founder's net worth is estimated to be $116.5 billion, and he is the sixth richest man in the world. Little did not say who paid for the emergency evacuation, but as other cases may go, it is usually covered by private insurance, or an agreement from one government to another, or paid directly by the requesting individual.
According to Bloomberg, Page has plans to fund Wisk, an air taxi company in New Zealand.
Meanwhile, before moving to New Zealand, residents in Fiji said that they had seen Page on the island when the pandemic broke in 2020. Fiji has also closed its borders to tourists, but Page was able to gain entry through the Blue Lane program offered to owners of private jets and yachts.
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