David Clark drove his family 20 km (12 miles) from their home in Dunedin to Doctor’s Point Beach for a walk during the first weekend of the country’s national lockdown, which began on March 23, he said in a statement.
He said on Tuesday that it was “a clear violation of the lockdown principles to remain local and not to drive long distances to achieve recreational sports.”
“I’ve disappointed the team. I’m an idiot, and I understand why people will be angry with me,” Clark said.
“Under normal circumstances I would dismiss the minister. What he did was wrong and there is no reason,” Ardern said at a press conference.
However, he will maintain his role as health minister while the country continues to fight the pandemic, he said, adding: “But he broke the rules, and he needs to pay the price.”
Ardern added that Clark would be stripped of his role as association finance minister and downgraded to the Cabinet’s bottom rank.
He said that his priority was to fight the corona virus in the country and that it could not afford “massive disruption in the health sector.”
New Zealand has a much lower death toll than the rest of the world.
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