World reacts: Dr David Clark's resignation makes global headlines

Dr David Clark's resignation as Health Minister has made global headlines, with media outlets making note of his "personal blunders" that drew the "ire" of Kiwis.

The embattled Dunedin North MP fell on his sword on Thursday following a fall from grace during the COVID-19 health crisis. 

Not only did he breach Aotearoa's lockdown rules - which he escaped a sacking for - but last week he was caught on camera laying blame for recent border botch-ups at the feet of Dr Ashley Bloomfield. While the Director-General of Health had previously taken responsibility, Dr Clark's deflection of blame towards a figure widely praised for his work during the pandemic outraged Kiwis. 

Announcing his resignation, Dr Clark said New Zealand was now on a stable footing and it was the appropriate time to step aside. He said he had become a distraction from New Zealand's response to the virus.

While New Zealand's success in fighting the virus has become the envy of the world, the Associated Press (AP) said Dr Clark "has been widely ridiculed" and resigned after a "series of personal blunders".

"David Clark had earlier described himself as an 'idiot' for breaking the nation’s lockdown measures and then last week appeared to blame a beloved health official for border lapses, generating an angry response from the public."

That AP copy appeared on the websites of Time magazine, Times of India, and Australia's The Star.

At The New York Times, Dr Clark was described as being "widely seen as a blemish on what health experts say has otherwise been one of the world's most successful responses to the outbreak". It also said he had drawn "ire" and "criticism" after his lockdown breaches and last week's viral video.

Russian outlet Sputnik News made mention of the Taxpayers' Union petition calling for Clark's sacking. It received nearly 3000 signatures.

The Australia Associated Press' Ben McKay said the former Health Minister "infuriated" Kiwis after his lockdown breaches and oversaw a "string of problems" at the borders.

"The tipping point may have been devastating footage of Dr Clark attacking Dr Bloomfield, all while NZ's top doctor stood behind him, looking crestfallen and humiliated."

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the BBC headlined its story as "New Zealand minister resigns after lockdown blunders" and The Guardian's New Zealand-based journalist Eleanor Ainge Roy said Dr Clark "has largely been viewed as an ineffectual minister who has struggled to make an impact during his term".

Other international media outlets to report on the resignation include Fox News, Turkey's Anadolu Agency, and Reuters.

How we got here

During alert level 4, when Kiwis were asked to stay at their homes to limit the spread of COVID-19, Dr Clark decided to go cycling at a mountain bike track in Dunedin and drove to the beach with his family. 

After that latter incident, he tendered his resignation to the Prime Minister, but she didn't accept, not wanting to create disruption in the health sector during a pandemic. She did, however, demote him in the Cabinet rankings and strip him of his Associate Finance role. Dr Clark apologised to Kiwis and wanted to regain their trust.

Newshub later revealed that he continued to move house during the lockdown. 

His actions most recently came under scrutiny after it emerged that two women were let out of managed isolation early without being tested. They later went on to test positive for COVID-19. About 50 others were also found to have been freed early without being tested.

The Prime Minister and Health Minister expressed disappointment in this, with Dr Bloomfield taking responsibility for the gaps in implementing day 3 testing in the facilities. 

Dr Clark wouldn't take blame and stressed that Dr Bloomfield had while the Director-General stood silently behind him. Footage of that moment has gone viral, viewed tens of thousands of times.

The Health Minister later said he had ministerial responsibility for the health system and his focus was on fixing the holes. The Government has since introduced several initiatives to tighten border measures. 

Despite suggestions of a frosty relationship between the two men, Dr Clark said on Thursday that he thought Dr Bloomfield was an "exceptional public servant" and pivotal in New Zealand's response to COVID-19.

"I have always been really clear that I have a deep respect for Ashley Bloomfield. We have a good, warm working relationship. I want to put on record again my thanks to him and all of the people in the Ministry of Health and across our wider public health service who have done an extraordinary job in the face of an unprecedented global pandemic," Dr Clark said.

Asked what he thought when he watched the video, Dr Clark said the "important thing is the whole context of my admiration for [Dr Bloomfield's] work" and noted that he had frequently praised the Director-General. 

Following his resignation on Thursday, Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Sarah Dalton said Dr Clark "needs to be recognised for his leadership of the National Asset Management Plan which means there is now a comprehensive stocktake of DHB facilities and buildings".

Dalton noted that he delivered the Simpson review, which looked into the state of our healthcare system and how it can be future-proofed.

"While his tenure as Health Minister was occasionally marked by controversy, these projects are a significant legacy. We look to the incoming minister to pick these projects up and get stuck in," Dalton said.

During Dr Clark's tenure, there has been significant funding allocated to district health boards, Pharmac's budget and mental health services. His latest announcements included securing more PPE supplies for those at New Zealand's borders.

Fellow Labour MP Willie Jackson told The AM Show on Friday that Dr Clark was a "good man".

"Clarky's a good man, he oversaw a lot of spending in terms of health. The National Party underfunded and under-resourced the health system, and Clarky put a lot of resourcing, funding and time into that portfolio, so well done to him. 

"I want to say good luck to him and his whanau at this stage. You know it's pretty stressful. I know you're all sitting around having a laugh at his expense. It's a bit sad, a bit sad really. We've got to stop putting the knife in."

Chris Hipkins, the current Education Minister, will now take on the Health portfolio.