WELLINGTON (NEW ZEALAND) – New Zealand Health Minister David CLark stepped down on Thursday. This comes in the backdrop of security lapses at quarantine centres where fresh cases of infection were detected a few days after the country declared it was free from COVID-19.
His departure comes at a time when the country is bracing for the general election in September. Clark also came under attack for breaching lockdown rules.
The former minister, who was criticised for taking his family to the beach and to the mountains during the lockdown, said: “It has become increasingly clear to me that my continuation in the role is distracting from the government’s overall response to COVID-19 and the global pandemic.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she agreed with Clark’s decision to step down. She had earlier turned down calls to fire the health minister over the lapses in handling infection cases.
The world’s youngest female leader remains hugely popular and she was hailed for her response to the Christchurch shooting last year and the handling of the pandemic crisis.
However, the opposition claims that her cabinet lacks talent, which could be damaging in the race to the polls.
Said National Party leader Todd Muller: “She has no confidence in anyone else not to drop the ball.”
Though there are no known cases of community transmission in New Zealand, there are 18 active cases. They comprise citizens who came from abroad.
The prime ministers nominated Education Minister Chris Hipkins as interim health minister until the election. This is the second reshuffle in 18 months after the housing minister was replaced last year. He faced criticism over the failure of the government’s flagship housing project.
(Photos syndicated via Reuters)
This story has been edited by BH staff and is published from a syndicated field