New Zealand’s Ardern hits back at Trump over COVID-19 ‘big surge’ remark

WELLINGTON: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hit back on Tuesday (Aug 18) against US President Donald Trump for saying her country is experiencing a "big surge" in COVID-19, calling the remarks "patently wrong".

Trump sparked uproar in New Zealand when he told a crowd in Minnesota that the South Pacific country of 5 million people was in the grip of a "terrible" upsurge in COVID-19 cases, having earlier succeeded in eliminating the disease.

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Thirteen new infections were confirmed in New Zealand on Tuesday, taking the country's total number of cases since the pandemic began to 1,293, with 22 deaths. This compares with the US tally of more than 5.2 million cases and 170,000 deaths.

"You see what's going on in New Zealand?" Trump said.

"They beat it, they beat it, it was like front page they beat it … because they wanted to show me something.

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"The problem is … big surge in New Zealand, you know it's terrible. We don't want that."

Ardern said there was no comparison between New Zealand's handful of new cases a day and the "tens of thousands" reported in the United States.

"I think anyone who's following COVID-19 and its transmission globally will quite easily see that New Zealand's nine cases in a day does not compare to the United States' tens of thousands, and in fact does not compare to most countries in the world," she told reporters.

"Obviously it's patently wrong," she said of Trump's comments.

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"We are still one of the best-performing countries in the world when it comes to COVID-19 … our workers are focused on keeping it that way."

New Zealand's death rate per 100,000 people, at about 0.44, is one of the lowest in the world thanks to strict lockdowns enforced early in the pandemic. The United States has a death rate of 5.21 per 100,000, one of the highest in the world.

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