NZ Health Minister Demoted After Family Beach Trip During Lockdown
New Zealand’s health minister has been demoted after he ignored national lockdown rules twice.
Dr David Clark has called himself an “idiot” and offered his resignation to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after he drove his family to a beach about 20 kilometres from his home in Dunedin during the lockdown.
New Zealand went into its highest stage of lockdown, level four, on March 25.
Strict rules state people should only drive away from home to buy essential supplies such as food or medicines and to exercise in their local area only.
Clark admitted to making the trip to Doctors Point beach after he was photographed going for a mountain bike ride last week.
His van, featuring a picture of himself on the side, was pictured at the mountain bike trail.
"People can go outside to get fresh air and drive short distances if needed, but we have asked people to avoid activities where there is a higher risk of injury,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said last week in response to the bike ride.
"The minister should have followed that guidance."
After revealing his second discretion, Clark offered to resign.
"At a time when we are asking New Zealanders to make historic sacrifices I've let the team down," he said.
"I've been an idiot, and I understand why people will be angry with me. I've apologised to the prime minister for my lack of judgement and offered her my resignation."
But Ardern said she would keep Clark in the job to continue managing the coronavirus outbreak.
"Under normal conditions, I would sack the Minister of Health. What he did was wrong, and there are no excuses," Ardern said.
"But right now, my priority is our collective fight against COVID-19. We cannot afford a massive disruption in the health sector or to our response. For that reason, and that reason alone, Dr Clark will maintain his role.”
The prime minister stripped Clark of his position as Associate Finance Minister and demoted him to position 20 in Cabinet, the bottom rank.
Opposition Leader Simon Bridges said Clark’s position was “terminal” but acknowledged Ardern’s decision during the pandemic.
“The prime minister is caught between a rock and a hard place,” he said.
New Zealand's total number of cases was 1,160 on Tuesday, with 12 people requiring treatment in hospital and four in intensive care units.