Silicon Valley elite ride out coronavirus on 'billionaire's playground'

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The mega-rich of Silicon Valley have fled the epicenter of technological innovation, taking refuge from the coronavirus pandemic on a remote New Zeland island dubbed the “billionaire’s playground."

Not only does Waiheke Island, nestled just off the coast of the South Pacific nation, boast 30 wineries and swanky restaurants bordered by sprawling beaches, it has become something of a safe haven because of the country's relatively limited COVID-19 infections.

Waiheke Island / Auckland (Google)

“My fear was it was now or never as I thought they might start closing borders,” Mihai Dinulescu, a 34-year-old Harvard alum who halted work on his cryptocurrency startup to flee to the island with his wife a little more than a month ago, told Bloomberg. “I had this very gripping feeling that we needed to go.”


They made it just in time. Days later, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed that the country's border would be closed to anyone other than citizens or permanent residents.

If any place on the globe could be described as socially distant, it might be New Zealand, an island surrounded by stormy seas, with Antarctica to the south. Made up of two main islands, the North and South, the country is known as the ultimate escape for America's elite: Hedge-fund pioneer Julian Robertson, Hollywood director James Cameron and PayPal Holdings Inc. co-founder Peter Thiel all have homes there, according to Bloomberg.

“Frankly, we were billionaire-hunting,” Dinulescu said. “We wanted to figure out where all the other Silicon Valley people would be.”


New Zealand has so far avoided a widespread outbreak, and new cases have dwindled from a peak of about 90 per day in early April to just five on Tuesday.

The country has been commended for its bold and early action in imposing a strict lockdown after just 100 people tested positive for the virus.

To date, there are 1,445 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country. Only 13 people have died there so far, and Ardern has been personally briefed on each one.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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