Coronavirus live news: New Zealand health minister quits, as WHO says Middle East at ‘critical’ point

Middle East

My colleague in Dunedin, Eleanor Ainge Roy, reports on the resignation of New Zealand health minister David Clark:

Dr David Clark has held the health portfolio since Labour was elected in 2017 but has largely been viewed as an ineffectual minister who has struggled to make an impact during his term.

During New Zealand’s lockdown, Clark was twice discovered breaching the strict stay-at-home rules; once by going mountain biking, and a second time when he took his family for a beach trip 23km from his Dunedin home.

Clark apologised for both incidents, telling the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, he was an “idiot” and had shown poor judgment.

Ardern responded by demoting Clark in the cabinet rankings but held back from firing him, saying the government needed his expertise during the public health emergency. Ardern said it was a priority to keep stability in government during the crisis.

In the week’s since Clark’s demotion public dislike of the minister has been growing, with many praising the government’s overall coronavirus efforts but making a point to single out Clark for criticism.

Victoria has recorded its fourth day of high yet stable Covid-19 numbers, with 77 new cases overnight, as a large cluster of at least 20 people emerges in Melbourne’s north.

The Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton said that despite numbers appearing to plateau he was still concerned.

“I get some comfort from stabilisation in numbers, but it is never an easy place to sit when you’ve got 415 active cases, all of which are infectious,” he said.

“Obviously, we’ve identified them. They’re in isolation. Their close contacts are in quarantine, but it’s an indication of a very large number of people who have acquired it, which means there are other infections still to be found out.”

Of the new cases, 13 are associated with outbreaks, including one linked to a new large cluster in Roxburgh Park.

Links have recently been made between 20 cases across eight households in the northern suburb.

“This is illustrative of the challenges we’ve seen and the reasons for the restrictions being in place,” Sutton said.

Tokyo reported 67 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the highest number since the state of emergency was lifted on May 25 and the sixth consecutive day that new infections have exceeded 50.

27 of the new cases were in night-time entertainment districts, where testing has been stepped up in recent weeks, and 49 of those infected were in their 20s or 30s, 15 were asymptomatic. Many of those cases were found at host clubs, where young men entertain female customers, and maid cafes.

The Tokyo metropolitan government said when the state of emergency was lifted that if the weekly average of new cases topped 50 it would consider asking businesses to shut down again.

But Governor Yuriko Koike, who is standing for re-election on Sunday, has announced a switch to an evaluation system based on seven criteria. These include total active infections, number of patients in serious condition and available hospital capacity.

120 new infections were reported nationwide on Wednesday, taking the total number of cases in Japan to around 18,800, of which just over 1,000 are still classified as active.

Tokyo accounts for approximately a third of the total cases in Japan with around 6,300.

The UK Treasury has been accused of taking an irresponsible approach to the coronavirus epidemic after a backlash to a post on its official Twitter account that hailed Saturday’s scheduled reopening of England’s pubs.

“Grab a drink and raise a glass, pubs are reopening their doors from 4 July,” the tweet read, while a graphic carried the message: “Pubs are back”.

Many of those condemning the post, which was soon deleted, accused its celebratory tone of being in poor taste given that the virus has killed at least 43,000 people in the UK.

The tweet came as Leicester was put back under lockdown conditions amid a localised outbreak and fears were expressed about numbers of cases being seen in Greater Manchester.

Leave a Reply