Google co-founder Larry Page and his sick child were evacuated to New Zealand on an air ambulance after requesting a medical exemption to enter the country, ministers say.
Heading into the House on Thursday afternoon Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi told reporters Page applied earlier this year for a medical exemption "to make sure his son got the treatment that was required".
"It was a process in terms of a health exception, it is something I think the Ministry of Health decided," Faafoi said.
In an effort to keep COVID-19 out of the country, entry to Aotearoa is largely limited to New Zealanders and their family. However, some exemptions are available, such as for humanitarian reasons. If someone wants to come into the country to receive medical treatment, they must receive approval from the Ministry of Health or a District Health Board.
Under questioning from ACT's Brooke van Velden in Parliament, Health Minister Andrew Little confirmed the Ministry of Health received a request on January 11 - prior to Fiji's current outbreak - to medevac a child from Fiji. An adult family member was to accompany the child.
Medevacs can occur when someone "requires immediate treatment and are therefore unable to go through managed isolation before treatment", the Ministry of Health says.
Prior to the flight being approved, "a clinical assessment is carried out in New Zealand prior to accepting the individual for treatment. The clinical assessment includes a check that the treatment required is not available locally".
Little said this happened in Page's case.
"The day after the application was received a New Zealand Air Ambulance staffed by a New Zealand ICU nurse escort medevaced the child and the adult family member from Fiji to New Zealand," Little said.
"On arrival, the child and the adult were taken immediately to an isolation environment in the hospital. In the event of discharge within 14 days, the child and the adult would have been required to be transferred to an MIQ, and I am advised that all COVID-19 orders in this respect were complied with."
The Ministry of Health says discharged patients can either enter MIQ or leave the country. Stuff reported on Thursday morning that Page's child was treated at Starship in Auckland and the billionaire has left New Zealand.
In the year ending June 30, 99 patients on medevac flights had been accepted for treatment in New Zealand. The majority of these people are Pasifika and come from the Pacific Islands. A small number are New Zealanders returning for treatment.
The Ministry of Health says costs of the medevac "must be covered by either a Government to Government agreement, private insurance or by direct payment".
"Costs of any medical treatment in New Zealand must also be covered for individuals not eligible for publicly funded services."
Van Velden asked Little what he said to New Zealanders overseas trying to get home who felt the situation was unfair. The border is open to Kiwis, but many are struggling to return as the MIQ system is booked out for months while some have had emergency requests declined.
Little replied by saying this was a "medical emergency" and it met every requirement for a medevac.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she wasn't previously aware of Page coming to New Zealand and it wasn't necessary to know a private citizen's medical details.
"The decision for a patient to be part of a medevac is made by clinicians. No, I am not advised of every single individual… politicians do not make those decisions, nor should they."