Jacinda Ardern has been pictured in a crowd of more than 100 people without a face mask – just days after calling for New Zealanders to wear them.
The Kiwi Prime Minister posted a picture of herself alongside MPs and dozens of young people for a Youth Parliament event.
Smiling broadly, Ms Ardern went without a mask for the photo, with only one member of the crowd wearing a face covering.
The image triggered instant anger on social media amid surging Covid cases in the country.
Jacinda Ardern (centre) went without a mask for this photo – causing anger on social media
New Zealand is currently under an ‘orange light’ restriction level where people are required to wear masks in public indoor settings
New Zealand is currently under an ‘orange light’ restriction level where people are required to wear masks in public indoor settings, such as public transport, shops and libraries.
Just last week, the government announced more face masks and rapid antigen tests would be distributed in an effort to battle spread of the virus.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said Ardern and others in the photo had been wearing their masks, but briefly removed them at the request of the photographer.
Posting the photo online, Ms Ardern wrote: ‘Every few years, politicians in New Zealand are replaced by young people.
‘It’s called Youth Parliament, and involves everything that parliament usually entails – select committees, question time, press conferences and a general debate – except with young people taking over our roles.
‘It’s such a fantastic programme, and always leaves me with great hope.
‘Not because these are our ‘leaders of tomorrow’, but because these young people are already out there being leaders in their own right now.
‘So thanks Youth Parliament 2022, for letting me be a part of your day today.’
Professor Michael Baker, an epidemiologist at Otago University, said it was disappointing to see ‘leaders not leading by example’.
‘There is an added responsibility for our leaders to wear masks when being photographed or in public settings to lead by example, this was a missed opportunity to normalise mask-use,’ he told the NZ Herald.
Discussing the ongoing surge, Ms Ardern last week urged people to wear masks.
‘(Isolate) if you have Covid – that markedly brings down the infection rates of others,’ she said.
‘Your household isolating with you is equally important. Mask use and vaccination. Those are three things that will have some of the biggest impact on our numbers.’
‘They are the most important things we can be doing right now, far and away above the extra measure [of] gathering limits which in this environment will not have the same impact.’
Discussing the ongoing Omicron surge, Ms Ardern (pictured) last week urged people to wear masks
New Zealand has a ‘traffic light’ system to grade Covid warnings and currently the country sits on Orange.
This means Kiwis must wear a mask in many indoor settings but otherwise are free to live their day to day lives while being encouraged ‘to protect vulnerable communities’.
The country could soon return to code red as NZ case numbers surge.
Previously under code red, Kiwis had to wear masks at universities and colleges and in schools from Year 4 up, and when visiting early learning centres.
Masks also had to be worn in public places like shops, shopping malls, cafes, bars, restaurants, libraries, hairdressers and beauty salons.
All indoors events and indoor gatherings needed to be masked up and coverings also must be worn on domestic flights, taxis, ride-sharing cars and public transport, plus healthcare, judicial, remand and aged care centres.
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