May 17, 2020 / 5:34 AM / 16 days ago

New Zealand's Ardern turned away from cafe under coronavirus rules

FILE PHOTO: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern pauses during a news conference in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 13, 2020. REUTERS/Martin Hunter

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Hailed for her leadership during the coronavirus pandemic, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her partner were turned away from a cafe on Saturday because it was too full under the physical distancing guidelines.

Ardern’s government relaxed many social distancing rules on Thursday, reopening cafes, cinemas and malls after two months of some of the tightest restrictions in the world to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Ardern and Clarke Gayford walked for a brunch to a cafe in the country’s capital, Wellington, where they were initially told it was too full, New Zealand media reported. An employee ran after them a few minutes later when a table became free and the couple went back.

Arden’s partner, Clarke Gayford, took the blame on himself.

“I have to take responsibility for this, I didn’t get organised and book anywhere,” Gayford said on Twitter. “Was very nice of them to chase us down st when a spot freed up. A+ service.”

The prime minister’s press service said that waiting at a cafe is likely with the virus restrictions.

“The PM says she just waits like everyone else,” the public Television New Zealand cited Ardern’s press service as saying.

New Zealand has managed to contain the coronavirus pandemic before it strained the public health system. There have been 1,149 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Sunday and 21 deaths related to it, according to data from the health ministry.

Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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