New Zealand’s health minister has been demoted after going to the beach with his family while the nation was in the first few days of lockdown. He branded himself an “idiot” for the breach.
“At a time when we are asking New Zealanders to make historic sacrifices I’ve let the team down,” Dr. David Clark said in a statement.
“I’ve been an idiot, and I understand why people will be angry with me.”
Clark admitted driving his family to Doctor’s Point Beach, about 12.5 miles from his home in Dunedin — at least the second time he broke the quarantine rules, having earlier been caught mountain biking.
He offered his resignation — but was deemed too important during the coronavirus crisis. Instead, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stripped him of his role as associate finance minister and formally demoted him to “the bottom of our Cabinet rankings.”
“Under normal conditions I would sack the Minister of Health. What he did was wrong, and there are no excuses,” Ardern said in a statement.
“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,” she said.
She said he was being demoted because he “broke the rules” and needed to “pay a price.”
“I expect better, and so does New Zealand,” Ardern said of her nation, which started a strict lockdown in late March.
Clark had admitted that his beach trip was “a clear breach of the lockdown principles of staying local and not driving long distances to reach recreation spots.”
His scandal comes just two days after Scotland’s chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, resigned over two consecutive weekend trips to her summer home — violating her own advice to stay home during the pandemic.