The obscene doctor, who became the unexpected star of the New Zealand pandemic, has resigned after two years of leading the reaction to Covid in the country.
Dr Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s director general of health, announced his resignation on Wednesday and said it was a “great privilege”.
“It’s a challenging and challenging role at any time, and I don’t think the last two years could have been more challenging and challenging,” Bloomfield said. “I’ve been thinking for a while about when it’s time for me to retire. We seem to be at a good point in terms of a pandemic, the reaction is changing [and] I am also sure that the system is in good hands. “
Bloomfield was a good-natured civil servant who became a well-known name, meme and often beloved, sometimes controversial public figure when the country struggled with the first two years of Covid-19. During significant outbreaks, the doctor was a calm and regular fixture on television, daily broadcasting updates live on the number of cases, infections and transmission. His presence was so constant as the country deviated from the first waves of infections that hit the headlines when he took his first day off.
Bloomfield has become synonymous with New Zealand’s response to Covid and its success in the early stages of the pandemic in eliminating the virus and continuing normal life. While Covid-19 outbreaks are now widespread in the country, high levels of vaccination mean it maintains some of the lowest mortality rates in the world. The doctor’s fame may have in itself reflected the country’s focus on putting scholarly advice at the heart of the response to COVID-19, at a time when some other countries have focused on political leadership away from health officials.
“I didn’t know as many civil servants as Dr. Ashley Bloomfield,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, paying tribute to the claim as director general. “He was central to our Covid success as a nation, and he did it with humor and grace.” Ardern occasionally referred to Bloomfield’s mockery of her as she tackled her own epidemiological learning curve, and said, “I will remain in the details of his sporadic mockery of me.”
“In every sense of the word – thanks to his tireless devotion, his focus on people, his calm and considerate approach – he was a true civil servant,” she said.
Bloomfield gave New Zealand moments of humor as well as epidemiological updates. Sometimes his conferences give rise to a wave of memes: including answering long silences about questions from then-US President Donald Trump’s speculation that people should inject bleach to cure coronavirus infection; or about claims by influential Instagram users that Covid was caused by 5G.
He became a point the pride and admiration of some New Zealanders: Mugs and kitchen towels decorated with his resemblance were sold in shops, and a petition was launched to recognize him New Zealander of the Year. His fame grew when his healthcare ads were tuned to dubstep at a music festival, informal fan clubs appeared online, and he became the inspiration for some ill-conceived fan fiction, including a love story.
“When we talked about his decision to move on, he mentioned that he wants to spend time with his family, and that’s the least we owe him,” Ardern said. According to local media Stuff, Bloomfield “worked a 12-hour day, up to seven days a week, through most of the pandemic.”
Speaking to the media the day after his resignation, Bloomfield delivered his prepared statements, discussing evidence of vaccination and other public health measures as winter approaches, and encouraging parents to make sure their children’s vaccinations were relevant.
Asked by reporters about his whereabouts and the way New Zealanders answered it, he said, “Over the last two years I have heard from New Zealanders across the country, a huge number of messages of gratitude and support – not for me and my role, but for the work conducted by our team … in those very difficult times and when I sat down and called the Minister at any time of the day or night, [that’s] one of the things that moved me, and I know it moved my staff. ”
Asked about the most important moments of the last two years, he said: “high vaccination rates.” Asked if he was thinking of running for parliament, he said firmly: “No way.”
Bloomfield’s tenure as head of the health ministry has not been controversial – the ministry has faced criticism for its failure to implement programs quickly use of mental health funding as well for editing mental health reports. The ministry also faced a lawsuit because of no exchange of Maori vaccination data Covid-19 with health professionals as well as criticisms of racial inequality in response to Covid.
Bloomfield will resign in late July 2022, the Civil Service Commission confirmed in a statement.
“Dr. Bloomfield has demonstrated excellent resilience and courage in directing the overall health care response to Covid-19. That response saved lives, “said Public Service Commissioner Peter Hughes.” I know many New Zealanders will also be grateful for the work he has done. “