At a time when leaders should be setting an example Health Minister HON Dr David Clark, admitted to activities during Alert Level 4, including a family trip to the beach in Dunedin that breached his own COVID-19 lockdown rules.
In what must seem a dark week for him, he apologised and offered his resignation, to PM Jacinda Ardern. In a statement, he said:
I’ve been an idiot, and I understand why people will be angry with me.
Ardern said: “Under normal conditions I would sack the Minister of Health. What he did was wrong, and there are no excuses.
I expect better, and so does New Zealand. But right now, my priority is our collective fight against COVID-19. We cannot afford massive disruption in the health sector or to our response. For that reason, and that reason alone, Dr Clark will maintain his role.
Although maintaining his Health portfolio, he has been stripped of other duties and demoted in cabinet rankings. Meanwhile, he announced a range of mental health support initiatives are being rolled out across New Zealand to help people during the COVID-19 crisis.
He said: “COVID-19 has brought a lot of uncertainty into our lives and many of us will be feeling some level of distress or worry about the future.
We want people to know that they are not alone, and many Kiwis will be feeling this way. This is completely normal and the messages in the campaign launched today tell us that it’s okay not to feel all right, all of the time.
One initiative is the “Getting through together campaign” which shares ways to help Kiwis cope with the stress of COVID-19.
“The campaign has been developed by All Right? who produced the world-leading disaster-recovery programme following the Canterbury earthquakes, in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation.
David Clark stated: “It’s important to remember that a lot of the usual places people might go to for support, like your doctor, are still available. It might just be a phone call or an online video link instead.
“I am also critically aware of the impact that COVID-19 is having on our frontline health workers. Many of the employers provide mental health support for their staff, and the Government is looking at what additional support is needed for our health workforce,” said David Clark.
Campaign links and information
Getting through together:www.allright.org.nz/campaigns/getting-through-together
Sparklers at home: www.sparklers.org.nz/parenting