PM accuses Simon Bridges of 'scaremongering' with 'irresponsible' coronavirus criticism

Source: 1News

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern accused National Party leader Simon Bridges of scaremongering and being irresponsible when he challenged the Government on its coronavirus plan in Parliament today.

Ms Ardern wasn't impressed with Mr Bridges’ line of questioning, which began: "Does she have a specific plan for Covid-19 in writing?"

The Prime Minister's response was interrupted by Mr Bridges, sparking a warning from Speaker Trevor Mallard.

"The New Zealand influenza pandemic plan is comprehensive and states on page one that it could reasonably apply to other respiratory pandemics such as SARS," Ms Ardern said. "It is totally relevant.

"If the member wishes to criticise it, he may want to remember it was produced in 2017 under his Government.

"This is a global issue and not a time for scaremongering and politicking like that member continues to do."

Mr Bridges pressed on after the Prime Minister's stern response.

"When will New Zealanders see a specific Covid-19 plan as Australians have, as British have, and other countries as well?"

Ms Ardern replied: "It’s already in operation and to suggest otherwise is irresponsible."

Mr Bridges then posed one more question. 

"So are reports from officials that they will develop a specific plan because it’s necessary wrong?" he asked.

The question prompted a short, stern "yes" from Ms Ardern, which caused a chorus of dissent from the Opposition.

Earlier, Mr Bridges called on the Government to implement a full travel ban on those wishing to visit New Zealand from South Korea and Italy.

Italy has been struggling to contain the outbreak and recorded 168 deaths from the coronavirus in the last 24 hours. The entire nation was put into lockdown this week in an effort to stop the spread.

Recently, numbers in South Korea have been coming down, but a cluster of 50 cases in Seoul has caused some concern of a resurgence in community spread.

Today, the Ministry of Health announced there were no new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand for the fourth day running.

So far, there have been five confirmed cases and two probable cases in New Zealand.