WELLINGTON: There were no masks on display as about 1,000 university students gave Jacinda Ardern a rock-star reception during her final Wellington campaign rally this week—and the New Zealand prime minister was fine with that.
Ardern, also without a face covering, happily posed for selfies alongside dozens of youthful supporters, rubbing shoulders with a disregard for social distancing that would spark outrage almost anywhere else in the world, reports AFP.Success containing Covid-19 means masks and distancing are no longer mandatory in New Zealand, an achievement upon which Ardern has staked her political future in Saturday’s general election.
“When people ask, is this a Covid election, my answer is yes, it is,” the charismatic centre-left leader said when launching her bid for another three-year term.
Indications so far are that the strategy is working, with Ardern’s Labour Party enjoying a strong lead in opinion polls after a campaign light on policy detail but full of references to quashing the coronavirus.
“Who’s better placed to keep New Zealand safe and who’s better placed to get us on track to recovery?” the 40-year-old asked during a debate with Judith Collins, leader of the main opposition National Party.
New Zealand has recorded just 25 Covid-19 deaths in a population of five million and its response has been singled out for praise by the World Health Organization.