Asia/Pacific

New Zealand’s Ardern: Anti-mandate protesters using ‘intimidation and harassment’

AP.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that protesters demonstrating against the country’s COVID-19 mandate rules were using “intimidation and harassment,” according to The Associated Press.

The protests, which have been ongoing in the capital city of Wellington since last week, saw numbers swell over the weekend from a few hundred protesters to a 3,000-strong crowd, the report added. 

Ardern told reporters on Monday that it had gone from “sharing their view” to something that “cannot be tolerated.”

“I very clearly have a view on the protesters and the way that they’ve conducted their protest because it has moved beyond sharing a view to intimidation and harassment of the people around central Wellington,” she said. “That cannot be tolerated.”

The protests have mirrored the truckers’ protest in Canada which saw the blockade of important border crossings between the North American country and the U.S. 

New Zealand protesters have also blockaded streets around Parliament with their trucks, vans and motorcycles, according to Reuters.

“It feels like an imported protest to me,” Ardern said in an interview, according to the news wire.

Ardern has also criticized the protesters’ viewpoint over the removal of all public health measures against COVID-19.

“That means at the very point where we are seeing an increase in cases and an increase in risk to the public health and well-being of New Zealand, they want to see removed the very measures that have kept us safe, well and alive. You’ll forgive me if I take a very strong view on that suggestion,” Ardern said, Reuters reported.

The country, which currently has a vaccination rate of 77 percent, has imposed mandates on some workers, including teachers, doctors, nurses, police and military personnel, to get vaccinated against COVID-19. A vaccine pass is also required to visit restaurants and stores.

New Zealand announced in February that it will be reopening its border toward the end of the month after announcing new COVID-19 restrictions.

Starting Feb. 27, citizens of New Zealand who are in nearby Australia will be able to travel home without undergoing quarantine. New Zealand citizens from other parts of the world will be able to come home without a quarantine period two weeks after Feb. 27.

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