A photo of Jacinda Ardern posing maskless, indoors, and surrounded by over a hundred people has drawn backlash – including from a former prime minister.
Jacinda Ardern shared the snap, of herself along with a delegation of youth MPs, on her own Instagram. Just one person can be spotted wearing a mask, despite being indoors and on parliament grounds (which maintains strong masking rules).
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Epidemiologist Michael Baker said he was “shocked” by the picture. It was a “missed opportunity to promote mask-use”, he told Newshub – a point echoed by Newshub reporter Amelia Wade, who said Ardern should be leading by example.
There was a similarly outraged response from several politicians, including ex-PM Helen Clark who said “what on earth are they thinking”. Former deputy PM Winston Peters called it “hypocrisy”, while Act leader David Seymour said Ardern should be following her own rules.
Just last week government officials including Covid-19 response minister Ayesha Verrall urged New Zealanders to wear masks at every opportunity while indoors. The advice provided every day by the Ministry of Health in its 1pm Covid updates reiterates this. “As a general rule, the ministry urges people to wear a mask in public indoor settings outside the home and in poorly ventilated spaces, or when it is hard to physically distance from other people,” the ministry said yesterday.
A spokesperson for the prime minister told media she had been wearing a mask the rest of the day but took it off briefly for the photo at the request of the photographer. This is backed up by other images shared by Ardern.
Conspicuously, the PM hasn’t been criticised by the National Party. In fact, deputy Nicola Willis today told RNZ that we needed to be practical. “Let’s be sensible, I think many people have taken their mask off for a photo… and I don’t think that’s unreasonable,” she said. “I think we just need to give the prime minister a break,” she added while on Newshub’s AM.
National’s leader Christopher Luxon was last week questioned on his mask use while overseas (though the rules abroad are notably different to our own).