New Zealand’s Health Minister landed himself in hot water for disregarding the government’s own restrictions by going mountain biking. While the country is on a nation-wide lockdown in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, David Clark admits he went against several guidelines to in driving 2.5 km to go mountain biking.
New Zealand is currently on level-four lockdown. According to those rules, citizens have been asked not to travel more than two kilometres from their own home. All businesses except essential services have been asked to close and citizens are requested to stay at home as much as possible. Further, citizens have been asked not to drive unless necessary.
Clark’s van was spotted by a citizen, reports the Guardian, as the lone vehicle the parking lot of the Signal Hill trails outside Dunedin. With his name and face printed on the side, it was not difficult to spot.
Not leading by example
In driving 2.5 km to go mountain biking, Clark admits he went against several of those guidelines.
“This was my only chance to get out for some exercise in daylight hours … The track itself is not challenging, and is widely used by families and foot traffic,” Clark said in a statement apologizing for his behaviour. “I know that now is not the time for people to be engaging in higher-risk exercise activities.”
“I don’t want to give anyone the perception that I take these matters lightly. This is a reminder to me to think carefully about how best to fit some exercise into my new-normal routine.”
Clark has apologized to New Zeland’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden for the incident.
“It’s my expectation that ministers set the standards we are asking New Zealanders to follow,” Adren said in her own statement. “People can go outside to get fresh air and drive short distances if needed, but we have asked people to avoid activities where there is a higher risk of injury, and the minister should have followed that guidance.”
Clark clarified that the trail he rode, a six-track called “The Big Easy” was not challenging, but that it was still not appropriate given the current lockdown orders in place in the country.
While some initially called for Clark’s resignation, Arden has accepted his apology. New Zealand’s finance minister Grant Robertson echoed that support for Clark following the apology. Robertson added that he expects better behavior in the future. “He needs to lead by example, and he didn’t do that in this case.”
Riding outside in Canada
Reactions to coronavirus are different around the world. At this point, Canada’s orders are that Canadians stay at home as much as possible, and practice social distancing. Those seeking fresh air are asked to do so close to home. However, no specific restriction on how far they may roam is in place at this point.
While many Canadians are abiding by these rules, not all are. As a result, a growing number of parks and public spaces are closing in Ontario, as well as in B.C., Alberta and in Atlantic Canada. These closures have come in places where Canadians are not respecting social distancing. Other parks have been closed where people were found travelling to visit parks outside their own city.