Senior diplomat collects Covid-19 on business trip abroad

A senior foreign affairs official had to postpone his return to New Zealand after he tested positive for Covid during a long trip to close business deals.

A senior New Zealand diplomat had to extend his stay abroad after taking up the post COVID-19 during a business trip.

Vangelis Vitales, Under Secretary of Commerce and Economic Affairs at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, accompanied the Secretary of Commerce and Export Growth Damien O’Connor on a trip this month to the United States, Belgium, France, Ireland and Italy. and Sweden.

Vitalis played a crucial role in free trade negotiations with the European Union as New Zealand’s lead negotiator, although he was also involved in Latin America and the Caribbean Negotiations with the United KingdomThe two countries announced last week that a preliminary agreement had been reached.

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In addition, he helped run the host year’s Apec Forum in New Zealand as chair of the Senior Officials Meeting, overseeing negotiations to reach agreement on how to accelerate the movement of Covid for vaccines and other essentials across borders.

In an interview with Drafting About his role in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation ForumVitalis spoke of the “enormous privilege” of his role, as well as the burden New Zealand politicians and officials are carrying to make this year a success.

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“Most of the meetings I chaired were after midnight — the temptation to put it in a more human moment for New Zealand, which would have been a terrible time for people in the Americas and the Russians, and in fact most of Asia Pacific was huge at times, right?

“Like your fifth night in a row at three in the morning, you start thinking, ‘Well, you know, maybe I should change that,’ and we didn’t, because I don’t think that’s right.”

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said that while it was unusual for the department to discuss an employee’s health status, they could confirm that Vitalis had tested positive for Covid-19 while in Europe.

“As a result, he has had to stay in Europe longer than expected, even to ensure full compliance with local Covid-related self-isolation regulations.”

Vangelis Vitalis (left) also helped lead this year's Apec Forum, hosted by Kiwi, as chair of the meeting, and oversaw negotiations to reach an agreement on how to accelerate Covid's movement of vaccines and other essentials across borders.

Hagen Hopkins / Getty Images

Vangelis Vitalis (left) also helped lead this year’s Apec Forum, hosted by Kiwi, as chair of the meeting, and oversaw negotiations to reach an agreement on how to accelerate Covid’s movement of vaccines and other essentials across borders.

The spokeswoman said Vitalis has been vaccinated twice and has had only mild symptoms so far and is recovering well.

While in Europe, he was able to continue to fulfill his responsibilities at Apec, as well as his role in leading the EU negotiations for New Zealand.

A ministry spokeswoman said the ministry is maintaining “a series of ongoing measures to support the health, safety and well-being of individuals while traveling or deploying at sea.”

MFAT CEO Chris Seid spoke earlier about the burden on foreign officials, especially those deployed abroad, during the pandemic.

Speaking before the parliament’s Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Committee in May, a senior official said he was able to share a meal with anyone else only seven times in seven months, as well as another official in a Western region. capital. Concern about “supporting the family during the pandemic, including the impact on their 11-month-old children on Zoom, guilt that her partner has had very few opportunities to meet new people since arriving in her hometown, and continuing worry about exposure to Covid life outside the embassy every day” .

“These are the people who deliver to New Zealand every day in very difficult circumstances on a professional level and even more difficult on a personal level.

“I think they show extraordinary dedication to their profession, to their ministry, to the public service and to New Zealand,” Syed said.

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