New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that protests against a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which are now in their second week, are a “imported” phenomena unlike anything she has seen in the country before.
The news: Hundreds of protestors have remained on the lawns in front of the distinctive ‘Beehive’ parliament for a seventh day, defying police requests to move and unfazed by the weekend’s torrential rain.
- The demonstrators have also blocked many avenues around parliament with their trucks, vans, and motorcycles, claiming inspiration from truckers’ anti-vaccine mandate rallies in Canada.
- “It feels like an imported protest to me,” Ardern told state broadcaster TVNZ in an interview.
- “I’ve seen Trump flags on the forecourt, I’ve seen Canadian flags on the forecourt,” she said, referring to images of former U.S. President Donald Trump carried by some demonstrators as well as the situation in Canada.
- The demonstrators have asked that the government abolish all public health COVID-19 measures, Ardern said later in the day at a press conference.
- “That means at the very point where we are seeing an increase in cases and an increase in risk to the public health and well-being of New Zealand, they want to see removed the very measures that have kept us safe, well and alive. You’ll forgive me if I take a very strong view on that suggestion,” Ardern said.
In addition: The demonstrations began as a protest against vaccine mandates, but have since been joined by groups advocating for an end to COVID-19 limitations, vaccination refusal, and other social problems such as censorship and ethnic Maori rights. Thousands of people were estimated to be involved in the protests at their climax.
- New Zealand, with a population of five million people, has some of the lowest COVID-19 case numbers in the world, owing to rigorous coronavirus border controls and social restrictions.
- However, as certain domestic limitations were removed this month, daily Omicron variant incidences have been growing, nearly reaching 1,000 on Monday.
- The country’s borders, on the other hand, remain locked, separating tens of thousands of expatriate New Zealanders from their families.
- On Monday, the High Court began hearing a case brought by a group representing expatriate New Zealanders accusing the government of illegally denying residents the right to enter the country.