New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern demoted the country’s health minister on Tuesday after he admitted he violated the country’s national lockdown to bring his family to a beach.
Health Minister David Clark drove 12 miles to a beach outside of Dunedin several days after the country implemented stay-at-home measures last month to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“At a time when we are asking New Zealanders to make historic sacrifices I’ve let the team down,” Clark said in a statement Tuesday. “I’ve been an idiot.”
Clark had already faced criticism after his van — which is emblazoned with a photo of his face on its side — was photographed near a mountain biking trail during the lockdown. Ardern responded by saying that people can go outside to exercise but should not partake in activities “where there is a higher risk of injury.”
“The minister should have followed that guidance,” she added.
Clark later acknowledged that he also drove his family to the beach last month. He said in his Tuesday statement that he offered to resign over the matter, and Ardern said in a statement that she would have sacked him “under normal conditions.” Instead, she demoted his cabinet rankings and removed him from his role as associate finance minister.
“We cannot afford massive disruption in the health sector or to our response,” Ardern’s statement said. “For that reason, and that reason alone, Dr. Clark will maintain his role.”
“I expect better,” Ardern said. “And so does New Zealand.”
Clark’s resignation follows a similar situation in Scotland, where the country’s chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, stepped down late Sunday after admitting she and her family had visited their second home, more than an hour’s drive from Edinburgh, twice during the country’s lockdown.