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New Zealand’s PM rejects Trump’s coronavirus ‘big surge’ claim

Cars line up at a COVID-19 coronavirus testing center in the suburb of Northcote in Auckland, New Zealand, on August 12, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has described as “patently wrong” a claim by US President Donald Trump that her country is experiencing a “big surge” in coronavirus outbreak.

“I think anyone who’s following COVID and its transmission globally will quite easily see that New Zealand’s nine cases in a day does not compare to the United States’ tens of thousands, and in fact does not compare to most countries in the world,” Ardern said during a Tuesday press briefing.

Trump triggered outrage in New Zealand when he alleged before a crowd of supporters in Minnesota that the South Pacific country of only five million people was hit by a “terrible” upsurge in COVID-19 cases.

New Zealand had managed to go without a new coronavirus case for 102 days, but a flare-up of infections occurred in the largest city of Auckland last week.

“You see what’s going on in New Zealand?” Trump said. “They beat it, they beat it, it was like front page they beat it… because they wanted to show me something. The problem is… big surge in New Zealand, you know it’s terrible. We don’t want that.”

“Obviously, it’s patently wrong,” Ardern said in her Tuesday remarks, referring to Trump’s claim.

New Zealand reported only 13 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, taking the country’s total number of infections to 1,293, with only 22 deaths. Those figures are in drastic contrast to the United States’ tallies of more than 5.2 million cases and over 170,000 deaths.

Police and military personnel check vehicles leaving the city at a COVID-19 checkpoint at the southern boundary in Auckland, New Zealand, on August 14, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

New Zealand’s fatality rate per 100,000 people — at nearly 0.44 — is one of the lowest in the world thanks to its strict enforcement of lockdowns early into its outbreak. The US, on the other hand, has a death rate of 5.21 per 100,000 — one of the highest in the world.

“We are still one of the best-performing countries in the world when it comes to COVID,” Prime Minister Ardern said. “Our [health] workers are focused on keeping it that way.”

The government has now extended a lockdown for Auckland’s 1.7 million residents until August 26. And Ardern has postponed general elections for a month.


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