The Government has said New Zealand athletes who are in managed isolation facilities having returned from the Tokyo Olympics will be treated the same as everyone else in their applications for exemptions to attend Olivia Podmore’s funeral.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins was asked about the grieving athletes currently in isolation during this afternoon’s Covid-19 update in Wellington.
Hipkins said he wasn’t aware if any exemptions had been applied for but if they had, there would be no special treatment.
“They are not the only people who find themselves in these circumstances,” Hipkins said.
“Tragically people end up in MIQ in really difficult circumstances and the Olympians will be treated the same as everybody else who goes into MIQ where a tragedy has happened.
“If they apply for some form of exemption, they would be treated exactly the same as others.”
Hipkins noted unfortunately the athletes were returning from Japan where the Covid-19 situation is “concerning” and it “will be difficult” for any applicants.
Podmore, 24, died on Monday having represented New Zealand at both the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2018 Commonwealth Games in the team sprint with Natasha Hansen.
In a public social media post that has since been deleted, Podmore talked about the pressure of top level sport and particularly her relationship with Cycling New Zealand and High Performance Sport New Zealand.
The last charter flight from the Tokyo Olympics arrived in Christchurch yesterday, carrying on it the remaining Kiwi athletes who were still in Japan – including New Zealand’s track cycling team.
Cycling NZ and HPSNZ said yesterday afternoon they are doing everything they can to support those athletes who now face two weeks in MIQ.
“We already had significant levels of support there and over the last 24 hours we've been working really hard to ensure there’s additional layers of support for anyone who needs it,” HPSNZ CEO Raelene Castle said yesterday.
“We already had significant plans in place with MIQ itself but we’re making sure we have reached out to every athlete, every coach, every person that is in MIQ, inside those environments and outside the environment.”
Hipkins added today MIQ staff would be doing all they can as well.
“What our MIQ team are very good at doing though is working with real compassion towards people who find themselves in MIQ isolated at a time where they really need to be with people,” Hipkins said.
“They have, for example, made sure that they can have video links to funerals and memorial services, they’ve provided access to counselling where it’s required.
“They do a lot to support people and surround them with love even though they can’t physically be with other people.”