Category : News
Author: Pete McKenzie

Civilians leave on visiting HMNZS Canterbury after pandemic combined with medical condition had left them stranded.

HMNZS Canterbury during a 2016 earthquake rescue mission.
HMNZS Canterbury during a 2016 earthquake rescue mission. Photograph: Reuters

New Zealand’s navy has conducted an unusual mercy mission to retrieve two people stranded in Singapore for 18 months due to Covid-19.

A medical condition meant the two could not fly to New Zealand, and their shrinking bank balance made staying in Singapore difficult.

The couple, whose case was first reported by Stuff, received a special exemption to travel on board the HMNZS Canterbury, which was being refurbished in Singapore at the time. The ship left Singapore in November 2021. The journey took 19 days, meaning the couple did not need to quarantine upon arrival in New Zealand.

Disclosed government emails demonstrate a concern the mission could set an inconvenient precedent. However, one official wrote: “It is not a Dunkirk-style evacuation of [New Zealanders] from south-east Asia.”

In a separate email the official wrote: “If we establish a precedent whereby people who have no ability to fly find themselves at a place where there is a [navy] vessel, that is heading for [New Zealand], with available space and medical staff on board, I can live with that.”

New Zealand’s foreign ministry noted that the case involved a “very specific and unusual set of circumstances” and declined to comment further.

According to documents released under the Official Information Act, the mission occurred after an adviser to New Zealand’s high commission to Singapore interceded on the pair’s behalf, saying their position was “very unique” and he feared “their situation could turn into one that is even worse”.

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