New Zealand has seen the virus return this month — but on Monday, it recorded just nine new cases. On Tuesday, 13 more were reported. The United States, where at least 167,000 have now died, has recently averaged around 50,000 new cases each day.
Politicians in New Zealand reacted with anger to Trump’s attempt at contrasting their widely hailed pandemic strategy with the U.S., which has had more than 5.4 million confirmed cases to date.
“Anyone who is following will quite easily see that New Zealand’s nine cases in a day do not compare to the United States’ tens of thousands,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters on Tuesday. “Obviously, it’s patently wrong.”
Trump’s swipe at New Zealand follows a familiar pattern for the president, who has sought repeatedly to highlight a resurgence of the virus abroad to mitigate America’s failures to contain its spread at home. Trump often cites misleading statistics, The Washington Post’s Anne Gearan reported, to obscure the fact the U.S. has just 4 percent of the world’s population but about one quarter of global cases.
Speaking in Mankato, Minn., on Monday, Trump made a similar argument.
“When you look at the rest of the world ... now all the sudden, a lot of the places that they were using to hold up, they’re having a big surge,” Trump said. “They were holding up names of countries, and now they’re saying, ‘Whoops.’ In fact, even New Zealand.”
The contrast remains stark between the U.S. and New Zealand, which has had just 22 total covid-19 deaths. Until last week, the island nation went 102 days without recording a new coronavirus case, allowing Ardern to loosen many restrictions.
On Aug. 11, though, New Zealand recorded four new cases. Auckland has returned to a lockdown, as the outbreak has grown to 90 cases as of Tuesday, SBS News reported. It’s still unclear how the virus made its way back into the island.
But New Zealand leaders were quick to note on Tuesday that those figures pale in comparison to the ongoing public health emergency in the United States.
“We know by now to take everything that Donald Trump says with an enormous grain of salt,” James Shaw, the Green Party’s co-leader, told RNZ. “But coming from the leader of a country that had 42,000 new cases just yesterday, I think it’s an absurd comparison.”
Added Winston Peters, New Zealand’s deputy prime minister: “The American people can work out that what we have for a whole day, they have every 22 seconds of the day. That speaks for itself.”