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Trump's Claim Of A New Zealand Surge Is 'Patently Wrong,' Ardern Says

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says President Trump's claim that New Zealand now has a "big surge" in coronavirus cases is "patently wrong," adding that the two countries are not comparable in how they handle the pandemic.

"We are still one of the best-performing countries in the world when it comes to COVID," Ardern said on Tuesday. "Our workers are focused on keeping it that way."

Trump's remarks came on Monday — the same day New Zealand reported nine new cases, and the U.S. added nearly 42,000. But the U.S. president, speaking to supporters at an airport in Mankato, Minn., claimed New Zealand was an example of a country that had early success in fighting the outbreak, only to struggle now.

"The places that they were using to hold up, they're having a big surge. And I don't want that, I don't want that. But they were holding up names of countries, and now they're saying, 'Whoops!' " Trump said.

"In fact, even New Zealand, do you see what's going on in New Zealand? They beat it, they beat it, it was like front page, 'They beat it,' because they wanted to show me something," Trump said. "The problem is, big surge in New Zealand. So you know, it's terrible."

"Obviously it's patently wrong," Ardern said when journalists asked her about Trump's comments, adding that anyone following the course of the coronavirus would easily see a big difference between the two countries' health status.

"I don't think there's any comparison between New Zealand's current cluster and the tens of thousands of cases that are being seen daily in the United States," Ardern said on Tuesday. "Obviously, every country is experiencing its own fight with COVID-19. It is a tricky virus, but not one where I would compare New Zealand's current status to the United States."

The death toll from COVID-19 in New Zealand stands at 22 people, out of a population of around 5 million. In the U.S., around 170,000 people have died from the disease, out of a population of around 330 million.

Those numbers amount to a mortality rate of around 52 deaths per 100,000 people in the U.S., compared to 0.45 deaths per 100,000 people in New Zealand, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard.

New Zealand currently has 90 active coronavirus cases, driven by a cluster of new cases in Auckland. Only six of those patients are currently in the hospital. Until last week, the country had gone more than 100 days without any community transmission of the coronavirus.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.