Coronavirus live news: New Zealand health minister quits, as WHO says Middle East at ‘critical’ point

New Zealand’s beleaguered health minister David Clark has resigned, following a series of serious missteps during the coronavirus crisis.

Clark was demoted by Ardern in April after breaking the lockdown rules in his home of Dunedin and going mountain-biking; a prohibited activity.

The minister described himself as an “idiot” for flouting the lockdown rules, but weeks later it was revealed he had broken them a second time by taking his family for a trip to the beach more than 25km from his home.

Ardern was scathing of Clark’s conduct and said minister’s needed to be examples to all New Zealanders during tough times.

The PM demoted him in the cabinet rankings, but let him keep the health portfolio as she said his departure would be too disruptive during the crisis.

Political commentators have described Clark as missing in action on New Zealand’s response to the crisis, noting his departure from Wellington to lockdown with him family in Dunedin, his decision to leave daily briefings to the director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, and later blaming Bloomfield for mistakes in border quarantining rather than taking responsibility himself.

The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has accepted David Clark’s resignation.

“David Clark contacted me yesterday to confirm his wish to resign as a Minister and I accepted that resignation,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“David has come to the conclusion his presence in the role is creating an unhelpful distraction from the Government’s ongoing response to COVID-19 and wider health reforms.

“It’s essential our health leadership has the confidence of the New Zealand public. As David has said to me the needs of the team must come before him as an individual.”

Chris Hipkins has been appointed as Health Minister until the election, Ardern said, which is to be held in September.

“Our response to COVID is on a stable footing and I have full confidence that Minister Hipkins will oversee the portfolio with the thoroughness and diligence he brings to his other areas of responsibility.”

“Post-election I intend to reassess who is best placed to take the health portfolio forward,”Ardern said.

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