New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has accepted the resignation of Health Minister David Clark almost three months after he said he was quitting the post. Clark had been demoted following an ongoing probe into allegations that he had breached the lockdown measures.
In March, when New Zealand witnessed a drastic rise in the number of COVID-19 cases and a total shutdown was announced, Clark was spotted at Doctor's Point beach with his family. Clark's decision to travel during the pandemic was criticized. However, days after his first outing, he was again spotted driving his van that had his picture printed, two kilometres away from his home in Dunedin. He had visited a mountain for biking.
Clark had confronted PM Ardern after his act and confessed that he would resign as he did not want to leave the impression that "he takes matters releated to pandemic lightly". In his confession, he had said: "Even though I deliberately opted for an easy, local track, on reflection I realise I should have chosen a better option such as walking, running, or cycling on the flat. I know that now is not the time for people to be engaging in higher-risk exercise activities. He added that it was "a reminder to me to think carefully about how best to fit some exercise into my new-normal routine."
The Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, also wasn't harsh on Clark, but had said: "You've heard me say here before I think cycling in particular is a great activity — I think anyone should do so safely and locally."
New Zealand has by far controlled the pandemic and there have been only 1,530 cases till date with over 20 deaths. PM Ardern, citing the numbers, announced on July 2 that "our health leadership has the confidence of New Zealanders". Addressing a conference in Wellington on Thursday, she anointed Education Minister Chris Hipkins as the temporary health ministry in-charge, until the elections in September this year.
"We have now shifted to a more stable footing with no evidence of community transmission with the focus shifting to containing the virus at the border, it is appropriate for me to move on," Clark said, adding that his presence in the government will be a distraction even as it is dealing with the pandemic.