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Google Billionaire Allowed to Bring Son to New Zealand for Medical Emergency Despite Closed Border

·4 min read
Larry Page
Larry Page

Shutterstock Larry Page

Billionaire Larry Page was allowed entry into New Zealand earlier this year to provide his child with emergency medical treatment, despite a closed border meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Page, 48, filed an application with the country's Ministry of Health for his child to be medevaced from Fiji on Jan. 11, Health Minister Andrew Little said at a parliament meeting on Thursday.

The entrepreneur, who co-founded Google with Sergey Brin in 1998 and previously served as the company's CEO, is the sixth-wealthiest person in the world, with a total net worth of $121 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index. He and his wife, biologist Lucinda Southworth, have two children: a son born in 2009 and a second child born in 2011, according to CNN.

Though Little did not identify Page by name, citing privacy reasons, his explanation came in response to a politician questioning the grounds in which Page was allowed into the country, as the New Zealand border is currently closed with few exceptions.

RELATED VIDEO: New Zealand Reports 100 Days Without Coronavirus Cases

Little said that a clinical assessment was carried out before the medevac was approved, and that that included a check to see whether the required treatment was available locally.

"I'm advised that all of the normal steps occurred in this case," he said. "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. On arrival, the child and adult were taken immediately to an isolation environment in the hospital."

Page did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Though the border is closed, there are several exceptions, mainly for New Zealand citizens and permanent residents, as well as what the governments identifies as "humanitarian reasons."

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"We may allow travel for humanitarian reasons in extremely limited cases," the government's website states. "If you are requesting travel so you can receive medical treatment you must get approval from the Ministry of Health or a District Health Board before you make your request."

Little said in the financial year ending this past June, 99 patients had been accepted into New Zealand via medevac for treatment, a majority of them from Pacific Islands such as Fiji.

Stephen Tindall, a Kiwi businessman and philanthropist who knows Page personally, told local outlet Stuff that the child was treated at Starship Children's Health in Auckland, and that Page left the country "quite a while ago."

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment confirmed to PEOPLE that Page is a New Zealand resident, but does not have permanent residence.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi, who also did not immediately return PEOPLE's request for comment, confirmed to AFP that Page applied for a medical exemption to the closed border "to make sure his son got the treatment that was required."

Even so, some prominent New Zealand politicians expressed frustration with the fact that Page was allowed entry into the country while others who have had similar issues were not.

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"The government has questions to answer about why billionaire Google co-founder Larry Page was allowed into New Zealand when desperate Kiwis and separated families can't get through the border," David Seymour, leader of New Zealand's opposition party ACT, said, according to AFP.

"I have had to tell them, 'Sorry, but there is no way you can get through the border, government policy will not allow it.' New Zealanders stranded overseas who are desperate to get home deserve answers," he reportedly added.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has been widely praised for her response to the pandemic, reportedly said that she was not aware Page was in New Zealand seeking treatment, but that that was not out of the ordinary.

"We have roughly, in any given year, roughly 100 medevacs into New Zealand. The decision for a patient to be part of a medevac is made by clinicians," she said, according to the Guardian. "I'm not advised of every single individual … at any given time because politicians do not make those decisions, nor should they."

Little said that the costs of the medevac must be covered by either a government-to-government agreement, private insurance or direct payment, but declined to comment on how Page's flight was paid for.

"Everyone has the right to health privacy and to the health information privacy code issued by the privacy commissioner, and I hope that we can respect those rights in this particular case, especially if, as reported in the news media, it was an unwell child that is at the center of this matter," he said.

Business Insider Australia reported last month that Page had been spotted by locals in Fiji on two of the country's islands over the last year. Though Fiji is closed to tourists during the pandemic, the outlet reported that Page entered through the "Blue Lane" initiative, which "offers passage to superyacht and private jet owners who abide by quarantine rules."

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