Wellington: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday slapped down Donald Trump’s talk of an out-of-control coronavirus “surge” in New Zealand as “patently wrong”.
She expressed dismay after the US president exaggerated the new virus outbreak in New Zealand as a “huge surge” that Americans would do well to avoid.
“Anyone who is following,” Ardern said, “will quite easily see that New Zealand’s nine cases in a day does not compare to the United States’ tens of thousands.”
“Obviously, it’s patently wrong,” she added of Trump’s remarks, in unusually blunt criticism from an American ally.
New Zealand had been hailed as a global success story after eradicating local transmission of the virus and Ardern was lauded as the “anti-Trump”.
But recently a cluster was discovered in Auckland, forcing the country’s largest city into lockdown.
At an election rally in Minnesota on Monday, Trump jumped from this development to prove that his critics (citing New Zealand as an example) were wrong.
“You see what is going on in New Zealand,” Trump told supporters.
“They beat it; they beat it. It was like front page (news), they beat it because they wanted to show me something.”
Citing a “big surge in New Zealand”, Trump added: “It’s terrible. We don’t want that.”
Since the pandemic about 8 months ago, New Zealand has a population of 5 million, about 1,300 cases of coronavirus, and about 70 active cases.
On the other hand, the United States is the worst-hit country in the world, with a total of more than 5 million cases and more than 170,000 deaths.
It is not the first time Trump and Arden-a relatively young center-left leader-have clashed.
Shortly after her stunning election win in 2017, Trump met her at a summit in Vietnam and joked she had “caused a lot of upset in her country”.
“You know, no one marched when I was elected,” she retorted, referring to the protests that followed Trump’s victory in 2016.
Both leaders will participate in elections in the next few weeks, and for both parties, the barb of the transaction is likely to play a good role among supporters.
Due to the recent outbreak, Ardern was forced to postpone the election for a month, which put her lead in the polls at risk.
Trump fell behind Democrat Joe Biden in the polls and faced fierce criticism for his response to the pandemic.