07 April 2020

New Zealand health minister demoted and proclaims himself an "idiot" after breaking lockdown rules

New Zealand's health minister has been demoted after flouting lockdown rules by driving to the beach with his family.

David Clark described himself as an 'idiot' after he breached the country's self isolation measures introduced to deal with coronavirus.

The 47-year-old, who just days earlier had been criticised for going mountain biking despite the isolation rules, admitted he drove 12km with his family for a walk on the beach.

“At a time when we are asking New Zealanders to make historic sacrifices I’ve let the team down. I’ve been an idiot, and I understand why people will be angry with me,” said Clark in a statement.

“As the health minister, it’s my responsibility to not only follow the rules but set an example to other New Zealanders … I’ve apologised to the prime minister for my lack of judgement and offered her my resignation."

He has since been demoted and stripped of his title as associate finance minister, but New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has not removed him from his role despite the offer of resignation.

In a statement, the Prime Minister said: “Under normal conditions, I would sack the minister of health. What he did was wrong and there are no excuses.

“But right now, my priority is our collective fight against Covid-19. We cannot afford massive disruption in the health sector or to our response. For that reason, and that reason alone, Dr Clark will maintain his role.”

“But he does need to pay a price. He broke the rules."

New Zealanders are currently in their second week under level four lockdown measures, with residents told they can only leave the house for essential goods, medicines, and a brief bout of exercise close to their home.

Arden finished by saying: “I expect better, and so does New Zealand."

This comes after Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon said her chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood had to 'pay the price' for a similar lapse at the weekend.

Calderwood twice broke her own social distancing advice after she was pictured visiting a holiday home with her family.

Initially Sturgeon had said Calderwood could remain in her position as she valued her advice, but after discussions between the two, the chief medic resigned.

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