| 12 April 2024, Friday |

New Zealand’s Ardern labels anti-vaccine mandate protests ‘imported’ as crowds defy calls to leave

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that protests against a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which are now in their second week, are a “imported” phenomena unlike anything she has seen in the country before.

Hundreds of protestors have occupied lawns in front of the distinctive ‘Beehive’ parliament for the seventh day, despite police requests to evacuate and despite the weekend’s torrential rain.

The demonstrators have also blocked many avenues around parliament with their trucks, vans, and motorcycles, claiming inspiration from truckers’ anti-vaccine mandate rallies in Canada.

In an interview with state broadcaster TVNZ, Ardern said, “It feels like an imported protest to me.”

“I’ve seen Trump flags on the forecourt, I’ve seen Canadian flags on the forecourt,” she remarked, alluding to activists carrying photographs of former US President Donald Trump as well as the situation in Canada.
According to Ardern, the demonstrators looked to be uninterested in engaging in discourse.

“It’s not really a group that wants to participate in political discussion when you see signs calling for the murder of politicians,” Ardern added.

The demonstrations began as a protest against vaccine mandates, but have since been joined by groups advocating for an end to COVID-19 limitations, vaccination refusal, and other social problems such as censorship and ethnic Maori rights. Thousands of protesters were estimated to be present at the height of the demonstrations.

Many people have brought their children to the protests, something Ardern has expressed concern over.

Officers will be visible in and around the parliament grounds, according to police, to provide reassurance to all.

New Zealand, with a population of five million people, has among of the lowest COVID-19 numbers in the world, owing to tight coronavirus border controls and social restrictions.

However, as certain domestic limitations were removed this month, daily Omicron variant incidences have been growing, nearly reaching 1,000 on Monday.

The country’s borders, on the other hand, remain locked, separating tens of thousands of expatriate New Zealanders from their families.

On Monday, the High Court began hearing a case brought by a group representing expatriate New Zealanders accusing the government of illegally denying residents the right to enter the country.

  • Reuters