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New Zealand health minister steps down after backlash over beach trip

New Zealand health minister steps down after backlash over beach trip

Clark last week blamed health officials for border lapses after the country reported some imported cases that drew an angry public response.

Clark said he had become too much of a distraction and announced his resignation this morning, having offered it to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday. Last week the minister appeared to blame Bloomfield for errors in border quarantine and refused to take responsibility for multiple failures, including people being released from quarantine without being tested.

That was despite comments to reporters, as recently as in Queenstown on Friday, that Clark would see out the rest of the term as Health Minister.

The 47-year-old infuriated Kiwis after being caught bike-riding, going for a beach walk and moving house during New Zealand's strict lockdown.

"I have always taken the view that the team must come first, and New Zealand's Covid response is simply too important in my view, so I have made the call to stand aside".

"However it has develop into more and more clear to me that my continuation within the position is distracting from the federal government's general response to COVID-19", he mentioned.

But New Zealand's success at containing the virus seems to owe little to the country's health minister. However Clark himself has been broadly ridiculed.

New Zealand's sharp response to control COVID-19 outbreak, won praises for Bloomfield, with people printing his face on tea towels and appreciating his efforts on social media.

Clark said he had mixed feelings about leaving the role, as he would be unable to shepherd through health and disability system reforms but could spend more time with his constituents in Dunedin.

Critics said it was "like kicking a puppy" and accused Mr Clark of throwing Mr Bloomfield "under a bus".

"Regardless, anything that acts as a distraction, anything that takes away our time and energy from our response to Covid-19, we just as a country can not afford, so that was a very frank conversation". "As David has mentioned to me, the wants of the workforce should come earlier than him as a person".

"Our response to Covid is on a stable footing and I have full confidence that minister Hipkins will oversee the portfolio with thoroughness and diligence".

However on Thursday, Ardern mentioned she was prepared to just accept Clark's resignation.

"At a time when we are asking New Zealanders to make historic sacrifices I've let the team down".

Asked how Hipkins would juggle his new health role with his education and state services portfolios, she said his experience with "an operational ministry of significant scale", as well as oversight of the state sector, would help him in the job.

Clark said that it was an "extraordinary privilege", to which he had given "my all".

She said after his earlier breaches of lockdown rules that the only reason he wasn't sacked was the fact NZ was battling a health crisis and global pandemic.