New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has hit back after US President Donald Trump that her country was experiencing a “big surge” of COVID-19.
Mr Trump made the bizarre call on the campaign trail in Minnesota on Tuesday (Australian time), ahead of the November’s presidential election.
“The places they were using to hold up. They’re having a big surge,” Mr Trump said.
“They were holding up names of countries and now they’re saying ‘whoops!’.
“Even New Zealand. Do you see what’s happening in New Zealand?
“Big surge in New Zealand. You know it’s terrible. We don’t want that.”
Ms Ardern moved swiftly to put New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, back into lockdown after a COVID outbreak emerged last week. By Tuesday, it had risen to 70 cases – an increase of 13 from Monday’s figures.
In all, New Zealand has had 1293 cases of COVID-19, with 22 deaths. Before last week’s outbreak, it had gone 102 days without a virus case from community transmission.
By contrast, the United States – the worst-hit country in the world in terms of coronavirus cases and deaths – has recorded more than 5.4 million cases and 170,000 deaths.
Mr Trump also alleged that New Zealand’s elimination of the virus – something Ms Ardern credited her “team of five million” with – was actually achieved to spite the Republican president.
“They beat it. It was like front page,” he said.
“They beat it because they wanted to show me something.”
In Wellington on Tuesday, Ms Ardern said Mr Trump’s assertion was “patently wrong”.
“Obviously I don’t think there’s any comparison between New Zealand’s current cluster and the tens of thousands of cases seen daily in the United States,” she said.
“Every country is expecting its own fight with COVID-19. It is a tricky virus but not one where I would compare New Zealand’s current status with the United States.
“We are still one of the best performing countries in the world.”
Foreign Minister and Deputy PM Winston Peters sidestepped any criticism of Mr Trump, saying he “didn’t make anything” of the comments.
“The American people can work out that we have [the same number of COVID-19 cases] for a whole day what they have every 22 seconds,” he said.