For many so-called liberals, Jacinda Ardern seemed to be the perfect premier. Warm, empathetic, progressive, above all – moderate – the New Zealand Prime Minister was lionised by the London intelligentsia as the ideal model of a liberal, centrist leader who saved her country by locking down during the pandemic.
But now the shine is coming off the blessed Jacinda as some in the West start to see her all-too human failings. Having managed to irritate both right and left with her clamp down on immigration and complacency on China, Ardern has now admitted what many others have been scared to admit: that her Covid restrictions will mean the emergence of a de-facto two-tier society.
During a video interview, the PM admitted that the current rules grant vaccinated citizens more freedoms. Asked by a journalist from the New Zealand Herald who asked: ‘You’ve basically said, and you probably don’t see it like this, but two different classes of people if you’re vaccinated or unvaccinated. If you’re vaccinated you have all these rights’ Ardern responded enthusiastically, nodding along as she replied: ‘That is what it is.’ She continued:
If you are still unvaccinated, not only will you be more at risk of catching Covid-19, but many of the freedoms others enjoy will be out of reach. No one wants that to happen but we need to minimise the threat of the virus, which is now mainly spreading amongst unvaccinated people.
Depressing stuff. The interview came just days after Ardern announced that that 90 percent of New Zealanders will need to be fully vaccinated in each region before the whole country can start loosening restrictions. Under a ‘red’ setting in the new traffic-light system, those who are vaccinated will be able to move around and use services relatively freely. But those who are not vaccinated will face much tougher restrictions – only being able to gather in groups of up to 10 and forbidden from using ‘close contact’ businesses, such as restaurants, bars and gyms.
It is worth remembering that only 58 per cent of the country are ‘fully’ vaccinated – meaning that Ardern proposes to limit the rights of more than 4 in 10 of her fellow countrymen. How will that fare come the next election? And to compound the issue she now faces being ‘cancelled’ in light of the low vaccination rates among New Zealand’s Maori population, amid fears the group will be disproportionately impacted. Trebles all round.
If this is what a self-proclaimed believer in the ‘values of human rights, social justice [and] equality’ looks like – Mr S would hate to see the alternative.
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