Health Minister says sorry to PM for flouting lockdown rules

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 3 Apr 2020, 3:24PM
Health Minister David Clark. Photo / Otago Daily Times
Health Minister David Clark. Photo / Otago Daily Times

Health Minister says sorry to PM for flouting lockdown rules

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 3 Apr 2020, 3:24PM

Health Minister David Clark has apologised to the Prime Minister for flouting the Government's advice to exercise locally during the lockdown.

Clark yesterday confirmed he drove to a park to go mountain biking on Thursday.

"I spoke to the Health Minister last night, who apologised to me," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a just-released statement.

"It's my expectation that Ministers set the standards we are asking New Zealanders to follow.

"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 was nabbed after parking his signwritten van at the car park - 2.3km from his Dunedin home - and it was spotted by someone who dobbed him in to media.

A Toyota Hiace van, emblazoned with Clark's face, was snapped parked near Signal Hill Lookout earlier on Thursday.

"As Health Minister I try to model healthy behaviour and this afternoon I decided to fit in a bike ride between video-conference meetings.

"This was my only chance to get out for some exercise in daylight hours," he said on Thursday night.

However, Ardern has repeatedly advised locked down Kiwis to stay local - and if they want to exercise to do so near their home.

The message has also been hammered home by Police Commissioner Mike Bush, who has said that vehicles should only be used for grocery shopping or a medical trip.

Asked if someone should be allowed to drive two kilometers to go to a biking trail, Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said:

"I think anyone who is undertaking physical activity which is important for mental and physical wellbeing… in particular cycling, is a great activity".

But he said "anyone should do so safely and locally".

He then reiterated: "Any physical activity should be done so safely".

The 6km mountain bike trail, dubbed "The Big Easy" was not challenging and was a popular local destination, Clark said.

"I know that now is not the time for people to be engaging in higher-risk exercise activities," he said.

Clark said the bike track was "not challenging" but in December 2018 a cyclist who suffered a shoulder injury in a fall had to be rescued by fire crews and ambulance staff.

The cyclist had to be carried down to the car park on a stretcher.

In October last year a young mountain biker was injured during the national schools championships at Signal Hill. The teenager had to be flown to Christchurch Hospital.