NZ PM hits back at Trump's 'patently wrong' virus claims

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE - WELLING­TON -AFP

Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern slapped down Don­ald Trump's talk of an out-of-con­trol coro­n­avirus "surge" in New Zealand as "patently wrong". She ex­pressed dis­may after the US pres­i­dent ex­ag­ger­ated the new virus out­break in New Zealand as a "huge surge" that Amer­i­cans would do well to avoid. "Any­one who is fol­low­ing," Ardern said, "will quite eas­ily see that New Zealand's nine cases in a day does not com­pare to the United States' tens of thou­sands."

"Ob­vi­ously, it's patently wrong," she added of Trump's re­marks, in un­usu­ally blunt crit­i­cism from an Amer­i­can ally. New Zealand had been hailed as a global suc­cess story after erad­i­cat­ing lo­cal trans­mis­sion of the virus and Ardern was lauded as the "anti-Trump".

But the re­cent dis­cov­ery of a clus­ter in Auck­land forced the coun­try's largest city back into lock­down. At an elec­tion rally in Min­nesota on Mon­day, Trump jumped on that devel­op­ment as ev­i­dence his crit­ics-who held up New Zealand as an ex­am­ple-were wrong.

"You see what is go­ing on in New Zealand," Trump told sup­port­ers. "They beat it; they beat it. It was like front page (news), they beat it be­cause they wanted to show me some­thing." Cit­ing a "big surge in New Zealand", Trump added: "It's ter­ri­ble. We don't want that."

New Zealand, with a pop­u­la­tion of five mil­lion, has around 1,300 coro­n­avirus cases since the pan­demic be­gan roughly eight months ago and around 70 ac­tive cases.

The United States, on the other hand, is the hard­est-hit na­tion in the world with well over five mil­lion cases and more than 170,000 deaths. It is not the first time that Trump and Ardern-a rel­a­tively young, cen­tre-left leader­have clashed. Shortly after her stun­ning elec­tion win in 2017, Trump met her at a sum­mit in Viet­nam and joked she had "caused a lot of up­set in her coun­try".

"You know, no one marched when I was elected," she re­torted, re­fer­ring to the protests that fol­lowed Trump's vic­tory in 2016. Both lead­ers are head­ing into elec­tions in the com­ing weeks, and for both, trad­ing barbs is likely to play well with sup­port­ers. Ardern has been forced to post­pone the elec­tions by a month be­cause of the lat­est out­break, putting her siz­able lead in the polls at risk.

Trump is trail­ing Demo­crat Joe Bi­den in the polls and fac­ing fierce crit­i­cism over his han­dling of the pan­demic. Thou­sands of op­po­si­tion demon­stra­tors took to the streets in cities across Ar­gentina on Mon­day to protest against Pres­i­dent Al­berto Fer­nan­dez and his plans to ex­tend con­fine­ment mea­sures against the coro­n­avirus. Demon­stra­tors de­fied so­cial dis­tanc­ing rules to an­swer calls to protest against a govern­ment an­nounce­ment last Fri­day to ex­tend con­tain­ment mea­sures in the Buenos Aires re­gion un­til Au­gust 30.

The cap­i­tal is home to 90 per­cent of the coun­try's grow­ing coro­n­avirus caseload.

Demon­stra­tors shout­ing "free­dom, free­dom" gath­ered around the land­mark Obelisk in cen­tral Buenos Aires, wav­ing Ar­gen­tine flags and chant­ing anti-govern­ment slo­gans.

Demon­stra­tors also protested against Fer­nan­dez's planned ju­di­cial re­form to ex­pand the num­ber of fed­eral courts in an ef­fort to di­lute the in­flu­ence of judges sus­pected of mak­ing po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated de­ci­sions.

The protests in Buenos Aires and other main cities took place de­spite a re­cent eas­ing of re­stric­tions, even as the coun­try bat­tles a steady rise in in­fec­tions.

NEW DELHI -AFP

In­dia's 28 states now ac­count for 63pc of to­tal fa­tal­i­ties and 54.6 per cent of the caseload.

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