David Clark resigns as Health Minister

Clay Curtis
July 4, 2020

Calls for Clark's resignation have grown louder, with political commentators saying he has repeatedly proven himself a liability and had begun to tarnish the government's success in eliminating the virus.

Mr Clark described himself as "an idiot" in April after admitting he breached strict lockdown orders by taking a 20-kilometre drive to the beach with his family. The world heaved a sigh of relief when, ahead of most of the world, Jacinda Ardern-led New Zealand declared itself COVID-19 free on June 8, though soon it got untagged due to the influx of foreign returnees in the country resulting in the confirmation of some coronavirus infections.

Ms Ardern said it would also depend on the country's ability to rapidly contact trace along the same criteria as New Zealand, and the ability for rapid turnaround of testing "so that we can be assured of the public data for any country being accurate data from which we make our judgments".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern demoted Clark in April after he was twice caught breaching the country's coronavirus lockdown rules.

But on Thursday, Ardern said she was ready to accept Clark's resignation.

"I feel now is the right time [to resign] because Covid is going to continue to come in to our borders, the pandemic is raging, and it is so important that we get that response right".

Clark's reticence to take accountability for the errors, instead placing responsibility on Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield, drew public outrage.

"Last week I had discussions with Dr Clark".

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'He reached the conclusion his ongoing presence in the health role was causing too much distraction.

Ms Ardern has given health to Education Minister Chris Hipkins until the election, but has promised to separate the two massive portfolios should the government be returned.

Her re-election was seen as far from certain before the pandemic began.

PM Ardern, citing the numbers, announced on July 2 that "our health leadership has the confidence of New Zealanders".

New Zealand only confirmed its first case on February 26, but had shut its borders by March 19.

There were also no new deaths, with the national death toll remaining at 22.

The four-tier alert system meant that restrictions were slowly eased as the infection rate began to slow to a trickle.

The total number of confirmed people who have or have had the virus in New Zealand is 1180.

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