New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern sued over COVID-19 lockdown

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s decision to impose a month-long lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus has been challenged in court, local media reported on Friday.

Two petitions filed in the Auckland High Court likened the restrictions to “detention of people” and said Ardern’s decision was for “for her political gains”, the New Zealand Herald reported.

One of the petitioners argued that the alert level 4 lockdown, which remains in force until April 22, “has left them unlawfully detained and is not worth the economic cost compared with the low number of COVID-19 related deaths.”

New Zealand has 1,409 confirmed cases so far, while 11 COVID-19 patients have died in the country to date.

The petitioner, however, claimed Prime Minister Ardern “had no grounds” to restrict public life, comparing her to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and the lockdown to the Holocaust.

“I don’t want my democratic rights to live in a society taken away on a whim,” the unnamed petitioner said.

The second petition claimed more people would die at home from diseases such as cancer “because they will not be able to get diagnosed due to hospital resources being focused on the fight against COVID-19.”

“The Prime Minister made the wrong decision … all for her political gain,” the petitioner alleged.

Lawyer Austin Powell, who virtually represented Ardern, argued that the restrictions imposed to stem the virus’ spread did not amount to detention.

After hearing both sides, the judge reserved her decision but said it would be given urgency.

Ardern’s government will take a decision on the lockdown early next week, with expectations high that the alert level will be reduced and certain restrictions eased.

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