New Zealand: Ardern 'sold her soul to China' says expert
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Ms Arden, who has been widely praised for her decisive leadership and early move to close borders at the start pandemic, has seen public opinion turn in recent months as the country struggles to move on from the pandemic. The 41-year-old stormed to election victory last October. However the latest Roy Morgan poll published on Friday has found Ms Arden’s approval rating has dropped 15 points from December to March.
Support for her governing Labour-Green coalition has also fallen to its lowest level since the COVID-19 outbreak began.
The ruling coalition is polling at 49.5 percent – just five points clear of the Nationals, ACT and the Maori Party.
New Zealand has successfully contained coronavirus with no cases reported in the community since February.
But the Pacific island nation remains under some of the most draconian travel rules and its vaccination programme remains slow.
Just over 700,000 people have received both doses of a COVID-19 jab out of a population of five million people.
It means less than 15 percent of over-16s are fully jabbed.
Meanwhile in the UK more than 38 million adults have received both doses of a vaccine.
Officials in New Zealand have also been slow to secure and approve vaccine doses, with only the Pfizer/BioNTech currently available.
Sir Peter Gluckman, the government’s former chief science adviser, said: “They have got themselves in a bit of a knot by failing to vaccinate people quickly enough.”
Severe restrictions on travel remain in place and have resulted in a shortage of overseas workers.
David Seymour, leader of the right-wing ACT party, said the geographic location of New Zealand has given the country an advantage in the global pandemic, but insisted the leadership of Ms Arden has taken the country “backwards”.
He said: “It’s difficult to imagine a country with greater natural advantages for dealing with a pandemic.
“There is nowhere more isolated … But while the rest of the world is going forward we are starting to go backwards.”
Under the current travel rules non-residents need to have an exceptional reason to travel to New Zealand, such as reuniting with a partner.
Passengers who are let into the country must quarantine in a hotel for two weeks at their own expense.
A one-way quarantine-free travel for seasonal workers from Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu to address labour shortages in the horticulture industry is expected to be introduced in September.
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Ms Arden said: “Covid has closed borders and New Zealand like many others experienced workforce shortages.
“We know our agriculture sector is experiencing challenges.”
The New Zealand Prime Minister is expected to announce more details about how the country will unlock its borders next week.
Since the start of the pandemic, New Zealand has reported about 2,500 confirmed coronavirus cases and 26 related deaths.
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