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Jacinda Ardern in war of words with Donald Trump over New Zealand’s COVID-19 outbreak

Jacinda Ardern has fired back at Donald Trump after the president compared New Zealand’s new outbreak of COVID-19 cases with the United States.

During a campaign rally in Mankato, Minnesota on Monday, the president called out New Zealand for its ‘big surge’ in COVID-19 cases.

‘The places they were using to hold up now they’re having a big surge … they were holding up names of countries and now they’re saying ”whoops”,’ he told the crowd.

‘Do you see what’s happening in New Zealand? They beat it, they beat it, it was like front-page news because they wanted to show me something.

‘Big surge in New Zealand, you know it’s terrible, we don’t want that, but this is an invisible enemy that should never have been let to come to Europe and the rest of the world by China.’

New Zealand’s prime minister on Tuesday said Trump’s claim was ‘patently wrong’.

‘Obviously I don’t think there’s any comparison between New Zealand’s current cluster and the tens of thousands of cases that are being seen daily in the United States,’ Ms Ardern said.

‘Obviously, every country is experiencing its own fight with COVID-19; it is a tricky virus, but not one where I would compare New Zealand’s current status to the United States.’  

Trump’s comments come as New Zealand recorded just nine cases on Monday, whereas the US recorded 41,894.

The island nation had been the envy of the world for its handling of the COVID-19 crisis until new cases emerged on August 11.

Auckland was thrown back into lockdown, or Level Three, to suppress the spread of the virus, having enjoyed 102 days without a single case of community transmission.

The rest of New Zealand has been placed at Level Two, which mandates social distancing and caps on gathering sizes.

The source of the fresh Kiwi outbreak is still yet to be determined.

New Zealand and Australian officials are collaborating over a possible link through a freight business with outlets in Melbourne and Auckland.

New Zealanders had been enjoying the return of their usual freedoms after an autumn lockdown proved effective in temporarily eliminating the deadly virus. 

But there are now 90 active infections, including 69 linked to a community cluster in Auckland, 20 in returned travellers in hotel quarantine and one separate infection in a maintenance worker at the Rydges Hotel.

Officials said the man carried out maintenance tasks in the hotel rooms between bookings and after the rooms have been disinfected. He wears personal protective equipment while on the job.

The man, who developed symptoms on Tuesday August 11, went to work for two days with a cough.

He tested positive to coronavirus on Sunday, and genome sequencing results released on Tuesday indicated his infection is not linked to the Auckland community cluster. 

‘It is most closely linked to a positive case that was in the Rydges and was identified on the 31st of July,’ Dr Bloomfield said.

‘This is a returnee from the USA.’ 

The traveller was staying in the hotel from July 28 to July 31 before testing positive and being moved to the Jet Park quarantine facility.

Health authorities said there is ‘no obvious person-to-person connection’ between the worker and the returned traveller but investigations continue.  

The maintenance worker has also been taken to the Jet Park Hotel quarantine facility.

Contact tracing and testing has not connected any further infections to the maintenance worker. He remains a single case.

All staff and returned travellers at the Rydges are being retested as a precaution.  

Health officials have also contacted worshippers who attended two of the Emmanuel Cook Islands Good News Fellowship church services on August 9. All attendees are in self-isolation and will undergo testing.  

Dr Bloomfield said 98 people – 44 positive cases and their close contacts – have been moved to the Auckland quarantine facility. 

As a result of the surprise outbreak, the country’s elections have been pushed back by four weeks until October 17.

The country’s lockdown has been extended until August 26. 

Under Level Three, in place in Auckland, all public places – such as libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, and playgrounds – must be closed. 

In America, the lockdown restrictions vary widely state-by-state. 

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