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Mega-rich flee to underground bunkers and luxury New Zealand real estate during coronavirus crisis

Wealthy Americans seeking luxury shelters in 'billionaire's playground' during pandemic

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 21 April 2020 17:49 BST
Coronavirus in numbers

Wealthy Americans are fleeing the US for multi-million dollar private bunkers around the world and luxury real estate in New Zealand to wait out the coronavirus pandemic among other "elites" and billionaires.

As the US death toll reaches more than 42,000, America's rich are hoping to escape the global health crisis in lavish underground shelters with all the comforts of high-end living at the end of the world, from hospital-grade air filtration and safe rooms stocked with several years' worth of food to home theatres and gyms.

Underground bunker manufacturers have seen a spike in requests for shelters in New Zealand, according to Bloomberg, while luxury real estate agents have field dozens of calls from rich Americans and Silicon Valley executives scouting properties across the country.

Vivos says it has installed a 300-person bunker in the country's South Island, and Rising S Bunkers has built roughly 10 bunkers across New Zealand over the last several years.

Gary Lynch, general manager of Texas-based Rising S, told the Los Angeles Times that his phone has been ringing nonstop since March.

Shelters cost up to $11m, with amenities like luxury bathrooms, game rooms, shooting ranges and even surgical beds.

According to Vivos, the company — which has bunkers from Indiana to Germany, among other locations — also has moved two dozen families into a 5,000-person shelter in South Dakota "on a former military base that's about three-quarters the size of Manhattan," Bloomberg reports.

Air filtration devices "suck in air and remove harmful particles such as bacteria or nuclear fallout dust, providing clean air for up to 15 occupants," the Times reports. Bunkers can also have escape tunnels, hidden doors, bullet-proof glass and "pepper spray portals" to ward off intruders.

Former cryptocurrency startup chief Mihai Dinulescu fled the US for New Zealand last month before the country had closed its borders to foreign travellers amid the pandemic, Bloomberg reports

He says he had connected with another 10 venture capitalists and Silicon Valley expats trying to enter the country before a lockdown.

In 2018, New Zealand had put in place restrictions on foreigners buying properties in the country, though the list of rich Americans with properties in "billionaire's playground" include hedge fund billionaire Julian Robertson and PayPal co-founder and Silicon Valley data and surveillance investor Peter Thiel, who owns two estates in the country.

New Zealand had ordered residents to self-isolate early in the outbreak, which health officials say had helped significantly slow the spread of Covid-19. The country has more recoveries than cases (roughly 1,500) and 13 reported deaths in a country of 4.9m people

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