Jacinda Ardern, whose restrictions buffered New Zealand from the worst of the pandemic, tests positive.
The prime minister’s rules kept transmission at bay for two years, and by the time the highly infectious Omicron variant hit, the vast majority of New Zealand’s population had been vaccinated.
- May 13, 2022, 8:32 p.m. ET
Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand who led the island nation through the pandemic, has tested positive for the coronavirus, her office said on Saturday.
Ms. Ardern has had moderate symptoms since Friday evening, her office said, adding that she has been in isolation since her partner, Clarke Gayford, tested positive last Sunday.
Ms. Ardern will be required to isolate until the morning of May 21 and will not be in Parliament this week for the release of an emissions reduction plan on Monday or the budget on Thursday, according to her office.
“This is a milestone week for the government and I’m gutted I can’t be there for it,” Ms. Ardern said in the statement. “Our emissions reduction plan sets the path to achieve our carbon zero goal and the budget addresses the long-term future and security of New Zealand’s health system.”
The positive test will not “at this stage” affect a trade mission to the United States set for later this month, her office said. Ms. Ardern is also scheduled to deliver a commencement address at Harvard on May 26, according to the university.
New Zealand maintained some of the world’s tightest coronavirus restrictions, especially regarding international travel, in an effort to keep the pandemic that was sweeping the rest of the world at bay. And it was largely successful, until an outbreak of the highly infectious Omicron variant took hold this spring.
But by the time Omicron arrived, the country was well protected. New Zealand’s vaccination rate is high: 83 percent of the entire population is fully vaccinated. Coronavirus cases have remained flat over the last two weeks, and the population of five million is averaging about 7,600 new daily cases, and fewer than 14 daily deaths.
With New Zealanders increasingly unhappy with pandemic restrictions, the country recently loosened its Covid-19 rules. Earlier this month, travelers from around the world poured into the island nation after it began admitting visitors from more than 60 countries for the first time in two years. New Zealand reopened to tourists from its nearest neighbor, Australia, in April.