Ardern Calls off the New Zealand Election due to New Cases of Coronavirus

On Monday, August 17, 2020, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern announced that the national election, which was scheduled to be held on September 19, has been postponed by a month due to the surge of new COVID-19 cases in the country. New Zealand was among a few that declared virus-free country while several countries were facing the hardships impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, which originated from Wuhan province, China in December 2019.

New Virus Cases in New Zealand

After having successfully contained the virus spread in the country for 102 days, New Zealand is now facing a new wave of pandemic cases that started last week. Until Monday, the total number of the COVID-19 cases reached to 1,631, out of which 1,531 has been recovered so far; at present, the country has active cases to 78 after witnessing new nine cases on Monday and the death toll is 22.

With this new development of the virus resurgence, the government extended a lockdown in the Auckland city, where the new virus cases have erupted last week. The new lockdown, which was extended until August 26, has impacted 1.7 million residents of the city while the norms of social distancing continued in effect in other cities. Although the origin of the new outbreak is yet uncertain, authorities have, however, suggested that it might have a connection with the Americold storage facility that recently recorded one of the employees was tested virus-positive. At the same time, Australian authorities are now examining if the Americold facility in Melbourne has any link with the surge of the COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, New Zealand authorities inspected the facility areas and conducted tests to identify the genome sequence of the infected employee, while it is expected that the result will come out this week. Ardern government introduced various policies during the pandemic such as extending a wage subsidy scheme and mortgage deferral program to support businesses and jobs affected by the lockdown.

Ardern Postpones Election by a Month  

With Ardern’s gaining popularity because of her well-handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, it could be the best opportunity for her party to win the election. However, she agreed to call off the national election of September with the political pressure from some other political parties since they complained that the lockdown hampered the poll campaign. Leaders of the opposition parties have accused Ardern of appearing on the TV almost every day and using pandemic to boost her political support. Moreover, a third of the country’s 5 million population is still under the emergency lockdown in the city of Auckland.

Reflecting the extension up to a month, Ardern said, “We are all in the same boat. We are all campaigning in the same environment,” adding that, “Ultimately, the 17th of October … provides sufficient time for parties to plan around the range of circumstances we will be campaigning under.”

Meanwhile, opposition leaders wanted to delay the election much further as they hoped New Zealanders would soon know economic hardships brought by the pandemic and Ardern would lose her support. National Party leader, Judith Collins twitted by attacking Ardern government, “Right now the focus must be on finding out exactly what failed so catastrophically at the border so we can be sure it won’t happen again.” However, New Zealanders are supporting Ardern and her Labour Party over the conservative National Party in some national opinion polls for the upcoming election due to her excellent COViD-19 pandemic policy.