Jacinda Ardern breaks silence on viral Ashley Bloomfield, David Clark clip

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has defended under-fire David Clark's controversial comments last week about Ashley Bloomfield.

Dr Clark - in the words of Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien - threw the Director-General of Health "under the bus" over the Ministry of Health's failure to test new arrivals before letting them out of isolation, as was policy.

Newshub's camera showed Dr Bloomfield was standing right behind Dr Clark at the time, the latter taking no responsibility for the mistakes himself. 

Speaking to The AM Show on Monday, Ardern said Dr Clark didn't say anything Dr Bloomfield didn't already know. 

"He was saying exactly the same thing as what the Director-General himself said 48 hours prior," she told host Duncan Garner.

"However, we have been very clear here this is actually not an issue that lays at the feet of any one individual. We all have to take some accountability for this. There's been a systems failure, it's been our job to fix it, and we have." 

Garner told her that's the answer Dr Clark should have given last week. Ardern implied the clip, which was viewed tens of thousands of times on social media after it went viral, was being viewed out of context.

"Having seen some of the rest of what he said in that interview, there was a huge amount of acknowledgement for the role that the Director-General has played in all of this. When I say all of this, our success as a nation. He's an exceptional individual, so in my view it was certainly not the intent to leave that impression that some have taken from that interview... 

"Having sat in a room with all of those individuals over many, many weeks, I can tell you we are all on the same page with what needs to be done." 

Jacinda Ardern.
Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: The AM Show

Dr Clark offered his resignation in April after it was revealed he had "been an idiot" and driven 20km to go for a walk on the beach during the level 4 lockdown. Ardern at the time said she would have sacked him if the country wasn't in the midst of a pandemic. 

She didn't say on The AM Show whether he'd be sacked as Health Minister or not should Labour form the next Government. Dr Clark was named 17th on the party's list to contest the election in September - a significant demotion from his current ranking of ninth, but with Labour strong in the polls and Dunedin North a safe Labour seat, he's unlikely to be booted from Parliament entirely.

None of the people released from quarantine or managed isolation without being tested have since tested positive for the virus, and nor have there been any reported cases of community transmission.

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