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A senior New Zealand government official was convicted and called himself an “idiot” after breaking a nationwide lockdown during the coronavirus outbreak to go to the beach with his family.
Health Minister David Clark drove his family about 12 miles to take a walk in March when the country met COVID-19 restrictions.
“At a time when we are asking New Zealanders to make historical sacrifices, I have let the team lose,” Clark said in a statement. “I’ve been an idiot, and I understand why people will be angry with me.”
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Clark had previously admitted to driving to a park near his home for mountain biking.
His actions came when the government asked the nation of nearly 5 million people to make “historic sacrifices” to stay at home.
In late March, New Zealand began a four-week national lockdown by closing schools, restaurants, cafes and gyms and closing the boundaries of most foreign nationals.
On Tuesday, it also extended for the second time the national emergency by another seven days.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said “under normal circumstances” she would have dismissed Clark. But she said the country could not afford a massive health sector disruption while fighting the virus.
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Instead, Ardern said she abolished Clark’s role as deputy finance minister and dismantled him in government.
“I expect better, and so does New Zealand,” she said.
Ashley Bloomfield, director general of health, said Tuesday at a briefing that the Pacific nation’s new daily case of COVID-19 had dropped to 54, the lowest in nearly two weeks, according to Reuters.
New Zealand has had a turnaround in its fight against the virus, with the number of people so far recovering from the number of daily infections, according to the Washington Post.
Ardern’s swift order for lockdown to prevent another situation like what happened in Italy and Spain has been lauded by one of the country’s foremost epidemiologists as “a triumph for science and leadership.”
The New Zealand official’s actions came when Scotland’s highest medical officer resigned on Sunday after breaking her own coronavirus advice when she went to her second home about an hour outside Edinburgh and she went with her family to take her dog for a walk.
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As of Tuesday, there are 1,160 cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand, with a death reported, according to Johns Hopkins University. About 241 people have recovered from the virus in the country.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.