Jacinda Ardern shuts down press conference after being heckled by anti-vaxxers posing as journalists

Press conference was re-convened inside soon afterwards

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Wednesday 03 November 2021 11:59
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Jacinda Ardern shuts down presser after being heckled by anti-vaxxers

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern was forced to abruptly end a press conference on Tuesday after being heckled by at least two people who appeared to be anti-vaxxers.

Ms Ardern was answering questions from reporters about vaccines when she was heckled by a female member in the public and an unidentified man who claimed to be a journalist. A video of the incident has been widely shared on the internet.

The woman, who was present with a child on her lap, kept singing and chanting slogans during the press conference. When intercepted by the police, she said she was not “hurting anybody.”

The man in the video, identified as Shane Chafin, interrupted the prime minister’s statements and asked questions such as: “Why is the vaccine not working in Israel? And you are still pushing it.”

The prime minister replied: “Sir, I will shut down the press conference if this continues.” She told him that he was being rude but Mr Chafin didn’t seem to care. Instead he told her: “It is rude to lie to the public of New Zealand.”

Ending the press conference early, she said, “For our members of the gallery here, we might move to an inside venue. Unfortunately, we have someone who is disrupting your press conference.”

The conference was reconvened inside shortly after the incident.

Mr Chafin was trained as a pharmacist in the United States and said he worked for a little-known website claiming to be "a fact and evidence-based platform ... covering the stories that many mainstream media outlets will not”, according to The New Zealand Herald.

The prime minister and Māori-Crown relations minister Kelvin Davis were in Northland to support the vaccination rollout process.

The pacific nation on Wednesday recorded 100 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total number of confirmed virus cases to 6,471 since the onset of the pandemic. It has reported 28 deaths so far.

New Zealand has been one of the very few countries to prevent a large-scale outbreak of the virus through its zero-tolerance approach. The country of five million people declared itself Covid-free and went back to regular life when most countries were still under lockdown.

However, ravaged by the Delta variant of the virus, the prime minister abandoned the ambitious zero-Covid strategy and has focussed on bolstering the vaccination drive while phasing out restrictions.

So far, 88 per cent of New Zealanders have had their first dose, while 76 per cent are fully vaccinated.

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