Coronavirus News Asia

NZ’s Ardern basks in a winning Covid-19 response

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Articulate, calm, compassionate, purposeful, open, bold, decisive, self-deprecating. That head-long dive into the Thesaurus of laudatory terms is often followed with glowing expressions such as “steely resolve,” “skilled communicator” and a “masterclass in crisis.”

All sound familiar? It should, for those were the same words and phrases used to describe New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after last year’s shock terrorist attack on two mosques in the South Island city of Christchurch that left 51 worshippers dead.

Then, the hug-friendly premier earned praise from Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation unused to hearing a Western leader showing such empathy towards Muslims, who represent a 1% minority among New Zealand’s 4.8 million people.

Now, Jacinda, as she is commonly known in New Zealand, is earning similar plaudits for her sensitive, but firm handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which nearly three weeks into a no-holds-barred lockdown is now widely perceived to be not only flattening the curve of infections, but crushing it.

All very well, say envious world leaders, neighboring Australia’s Scott Morrison probably among them, but New Zealand is a couple of islands stuck out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and easily cut off from the rest of the world, which it is right now to a large extent.

It’s hard to compare with Indonesia, an archipelago of 273 million people living on 6,000 Inhabited islands. Or Australia, with 86% of its 24.6 million population clinging to a narrow 24,000 kilometer swathe of coastline which has just emerged from its worst-ever fire season.

But there’s no getting away from the fact that New Zealand has come together in a common purpose with a leader who at one point talks to kids about this year’s sad absence of the Easter Bunny due to the virus, and then comes down hard on surfers and rugby players who break lockdown rules.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern one day before the country goes on lockdown to combat the Covid-19 coronavirus March 24, 2020. Photo: AFP/Marty Melville

When Health Minister Dr. David Clark foolishly took his family to the beach for some exercise, he was swiftly demoted and would have lost his job if the country hadn’t been in the middle of an emergency. He did call himself an “idiot.”

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