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New Zealand Health Minister David Clark on Thursday announced that he decided to resign and leave the cabinet amid criticism.

The surprise announcement came amid months of public outcry on Clark’s dereliction of duty during and after the country’s COVID-19 lockdown, reports Xinhua news agency.

Clark had planned to attend a ribbon-cutting event in Palmerston North for a cancer facility but made the surprise announcement at a press conference Thursday morning local time.

“It’s no secret that health is a challenging portfolio. I have given it my all. But it has become increasingly clear to me that my continuation in the role is detracting from the government’s overall response to the COVID-19 Global Pandemic,” Clark said in his public statement.

The resignation was accepted by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

He will stay on as an MP and take part in the upcoming election on September 19.

Clark was criticized for his poor handling of the managed isolation facilities where travelers arriving in New Zealand stay for 14 days to prevent the spread of COVID-19 into the country.

Two people with COVID-19 have reportedly left the managed isolation center earlier than expected and without being tested.

He also breached the lockdown rules by taking his family to the beach.

After not reporting any COVID-19 case for 24 days, New Zealand witnessed a spike in the number of cases late last month mostly travelers from abroad.

As of Thursday, the country reported a total of 1,530 cases, with 22 deaths.

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