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Wuhan Virus: New Zealanders left high and dry as Embassy staff holiday – Kiwis told to call WHO

Kiwi taxpayers in China have no one to turn to with New Zealand Embassy Officials having remained on holiday despite the Wuhan Virus turning New Zealanders’ lives in the province upside down.  The Embassy in Beijing remains closed for Chinese New Year.

This afternoon the Taxpayers’ Union received a tip-off that Kiwis in China cannot get a hold of any of the hundreds of New Zealand officials who work in the country.  “We called the Embassy and couldn’t believe that at 1pm Beijing time, despite the developing situation, the Embassy is closed,” says Jordan Williams, a spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Union.

“While Australia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs works with the Chinese Government to evacuate Australian citizens from Wuhan, New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs officials are quite literally still on holiday. It’s an incredible situation given events over recent days.”

“What is the point of a diplomatic post, if it’s not open when New Zealanders actually need it?”

“In Australia the Foreign Affairs Minister is front and centre in efforts to extricate Australians.  Here, not a word from MFAT or our Minister.”

“If you call our Embassy in Beijing, you are told it is closed for Chinese New Year, and to contact the MFAT’s emergency line based in Wellington.  We called the line asking who on the ground Kiwis stuck in Wuhan could contact.  MFAT advised us that New Zealanders should contact the World Health Organisation, or the New Zealand Ministry of Health.”

“According to MFAT, $50 million of taxpayers’ money was used for ‘elegant and sustainable new building to be the heart of its official presence in China’ on ‘a quiet leafy street in Beijing’. But at the very time New Zealanders most need help, the doors are locked.”

“And it’s not just people stuck in Chinese provinces.  We are hearing of widescale cancellations of orders from China for New Zealand goods and last minute cancelations of tour group bookings following the Chinese Government’s travel restrictions. These are the very officials Kiwi businesses rely on for advice.”

“If the sample of businesses we have spoken to is reflective of the potential economic impact, MBIE and MFAT should be hands on deck, not on holiday.”

“Minister Winston Peters, and the Ambassador Clare Fearnley, need to end their holiday and get back to work.  Chinese New Year or not.”

Sources:

Australian response: https://www.9news.com.au/national/coronavirus-australian-government-extricate-nationals-trapped-in-wuhan-health-news/b236a1dc-e019-46a0-a063-348bf236cb25

Cost of Embassy $50 million source https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12179737

Quote from MFAT website: “Our place in Beijing” https://www.mfat.govt.nz/en/countries-and-regions/north-asia/china/new-zealand-embassy/our-place-in-beijing

Embassy contact details: https://www.mfat.govt.nz/en/countries-and-regions/north-asia/china/new-zealand-embassy/contactfull

ENDS


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