New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins speaks to the media during a press conference at the South Bank Piazza during a visit to Brisbane, Australia, 23 April 2023. EFE-EPA/DARREN ENGLAND AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT/FILE

New Zealand PM tests positive for Covid-19 two weeks before elections

Bangkok, Oct 1 (EFE).- New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins announced Sunday that he had tested positive for Covid-19, just two weeks before an election seen as crucial for the Labor Party, whose popularity has plummeted in the country.

In an announcement on his Facebook account, Hipkins, appointed prime minister in mid-January following the surprise resignation of Jacinda Ardern, said he woke up feeling ill and later tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

He added that he would remain in social isolation and suspend his in-person appearances in the final stretch of the election campaign for five days or until he obtains a negative test.

“I’m in close contact with New Zealanders on the campaign trail and I don’t want to pass it on to anyone, so I’ll be following the guidance and isolating for a few days or until I get a negative test,” he said in his message.

Although New Zealand lifted the last Covid-19 restrictions in August, health authorities still recommend that people stay home for five days if they do not feel well or have tested positive for the virus.

The diagnosis of Hipkins, who had already contracted the disease in March 2022, occurs at a critical moment before the elections that the country will hold in two weeks, since early voting begins Monday.

New Zealand, whose fight against the pandemic became a global example under the management of Ardern, will elect a new government on Oct. 14, in vital elections for the Labor Party, in power since 2017 but which has lost support in recent months.

The latest polls show the center-right New Zealand National Party as the favorite, with support varying between 34.5 percent and 39 percent of those interviewed, while Labor appears as second and would obtain a support of between 26.5 percent and 28 percent of voters. EFE