New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters mocked a coronavirus skeptic while taking questions on Monday, swiftly smacking down the man’s conspiratorial ideas about COVID-19.
The incident was captured on video while Peters, head of the New Zealand First Party, was campaigning for re-election at a public meeting in Tauranga.
The man, who spoke with a North American accent, stood up in the audience and challenged Peters to prove that the coronavirus exists.
“Where is your evidence that there is a virus that causes this disease?” he demanded.
“Sit down,” Peters interjected.
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“We’ve got someone who obviously got an education in America,” he quipped.
Peters then referred to the numbers: More than eight million cases and 214,000 deaths in the United States, and approximately 70,000 new cases cropping up in India each day.
“And here’s someone who gets up and says, ‘The Earth is flat,’” Peters said. “Sorry, sunshine. Wrong place.”
New Zealand has been among the most successful nations in the world at stamping out COVID-19. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shut the borders and locked down the country in early March after approximately 100 cases were reported. Those measures paid off and New Zealand went more than 100 days without a case over the summer.
Ardern re-imposed restrictions on the nation of five million people in August after a handful of new cases were identified.
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Peters has served as Ardern’s deputy prime minister since helping her form a coalition government for her first term. He was taking questions as part of the election campaign when the coronavirus denier spoke up.
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Like Peters, Ardern has not been shy about denouncing anti-science views around COVID-19, especially from the United States.
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She fired back at U.S. President Donald Trump in August after Trump seemed to celebrate the return of the virus to her nation.
“The places they were using to hold up now they’re having a big surge … they were holding up names of countries and now they’re saying ‘whoops!’” Trump said at the time.
“Big surge in New Zealand, you know it’s terrible, we don’t want that, but this is an invisible enemy.”
Ardern rejected that comment without mentioning Trump by name.
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“I think everyone can see that in New Zealand today, we are talking 11 cases, whereas the United States has been dealing with over 40,000 cases,” she said in August.
“But it’s not just whether you have cases, it’s how you choose to deal with them as a nation, and I am very proud of how New Zealanders have taken to the battle with COVID-19.”
Trump has repeatedly downplayed the virus and attempted to wish it away. He has also contradicted top scientists and tried to make up potential “cures,” including sunlight and bleach.
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He has continued to push misinformation around the virus since recovering from it himself, falsely claiming that anyone who recovers is “immune.”
The U.S. has led the world in COVID-19 cases and deaths for several months.
Ardern appears poised to win a second term in office on Saturday.
Trump is up for re-election on Nov. 3.
—With files from Reuters and The Associated Press
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