Whether you agree with her policies as a Labour Government or not, you absolutely cannot deny that Jacinda Ardern loves her country. She has shown that she will do anything to protect our people, our land, our economy and our rights through challenging times and in everyday life.
The last two weeks alone have seen New Zealand go from a few cases to 708 (as of 1st April) and caused our country to go into a state of national emergency as well with a third of the globe. So, what makes Ardern stand out as a leader?
Ardern and her team acted early in response to the pandemic, requiring everyone entering the country be isolated for 14 days following their arrival, as the majority of cases have been transmitted from recent overseas travellers. Her administration also created the world’s first COVID-19 alert system, which specifies and updates citizens of the public health and social measures to be taken. Ardern’s team has recognised that the minimisation of confusion surround protective and restrictive measures is the first step in fighting the pandemic.
There are 4 levels in dealing with a pandemic: prepare, reduce, restrict and eliminate. Level 4 includes complete lockdown, people staying in their houses, all non-essential businesses shutting their doors, and face-to-face contact restricted to people only in your ‘bubble’.
Ardern is kind, empathetic, and reassures her people that they can get through this together when we all put in little a sacrifice. “Moving to Level 3, then 4, will place the most significant restrictions on our people in modern history but they are a necessary sacrifice to save lives. I say to all New Zealanders: The Government will do all it can to protect you. Now I’m asking you to do everything you can to protect all of us. Kiwis – go home”.
On March 23rd Ardern and her team decided to move up NZ’s alert system to 3 and then in 48 hours up it again to level 4. This meant complete lockdown for a minimum of 4 weeks excluding essential workers. “Due to the early and strong steps we’ve taken, New Zealand is fortunate not to be as hard-hit by the virus as other countries but the trajectory is clear. We are under attack, just as the rest of the world is, and must unite to stop the worst from happening here,” Ardern stated.
Throughout level 4, Ardern has multiple times assured her country that this is not forever; it is about doing our part to eliminate this virus from the country to decrease the strain on the healthcare system, economy, and social aspects of everyday life. In a conference, the Prime Minister stated that we all must act as if we are a carrier of the virus, practice social distancing and only staying in our ‘isolation bubble’. She has endorsed the ‘teddy bear walk’ where families with younger children can go out walking looking for teddies people are placing in their windows for a bit of entertainment. She also mentioned that we need to look after our grandparents and others with compromised immune systems, by doing what we can for them, dropping off groceries etc.
The Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, and Ardern early on introduced a business and wage subsidy scheme, saving many New Zealanders jobs and helping to decrease the immense stress that comes with the spread of the virus. They also are allowing a six month ‘mortgage holiday’ with 80% of the credit risk taken on by the government to act as insurance. These are just a few examples of how Ardern cares about her people. She isn’t just worried about our economy and GDP through this time but ensuring that her people stay afloat.
Ardern is an outstanding people person. Her core beliefs centre on helping people, which is an incredibly desirable trait for a government figure. On a less formal level, Ardern regularly sits down and goes live on Facebook, often on her couch after putting her daughter to bed or in between official meetings. Throughout these live streams, she answers questions, gaining a better understanding of issues such as PPE shortages, and does all she can to solve them. This clearly shows the absolute dedication she has to her people.
Some people may argue that she is only doing this to gain popularity as the New Zealand Parliament heads into an election is this year. But this is not the first time we are seeing her empathy and love of country shine through. Throughout her three-year term, she has dealt with the Christchurch terrorist attack and the eruption of White Island, both of which gained her worldwide recognition for approaching both an outstanding way. Ardern is not just a politician looking to hold onto power. She truly cares about the people she leads.
“New Zealand is fighting an unprecedented global pandemic and it will take a collective effort of every single New Zealander doing the right thing to give us our best shot at curtailing community outbreak,” Jacinda Ardern, 2019.
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