23 September 2008

NZ tourist with TB flown home on private jet

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A Korean national visiting her daughter in New Zealand was flown home on a secret private flight, paid by the Government, after discovering she had the infectious disease Tuberculosis (TB), reports the New Zealand Herald.

Immigration officials were alerted of the 67-year-old woman’s condition after she visited a New Zealand doctor.  A $330,000 flight that took off at 3am was arranged by the government, which had been fitted with a negative pressure chamber designed for the SARS epidemic to protect the pilots from the disease. The woman and her daughter had hidden her disease from the immigration officials in order to pass border security in New Zealand. 

All applicants for New Zealand visas must meet the health requirements of the Government before their visas can be granted so that immigrants do not burden the health system with long-term illnesses, conditions or contagious diseases.  Proof that applicants meet the requirements must be in the form of medical certificates and chest X-rays. 

Being a Korean national, the unnamed woman was from a country that is part of a visa waiver program with New Zealand.  This means that she could visit New Zealand for up to three months without applying for a New Zealand Tourist Visa, and that she did not need to undertake medical examinations or have chest X-rays for TB. 

A spokesperson from Immigration New Zealand, Andrew Annakin, said it is too costly for the government to bear the cost of screening every temporary entrant to New Zealand.

"Since approximately two-and-a-half million short-term visitors arrive in New Zealand every year, it would be highly impractical to make every visitor and tourist go through an expensive screening process," Mr Annakin said.

The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people emigrate to New Zealand.

Article by Jessica Bird, New Zealand Visa Bureau.

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