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Jacinda Ardern loses sense of taste after contracting Covid, and can’t enjoy cheese roll

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern says she has lost her sense of taste after testing positive for Covid-19 on Saturday.

Thursday was budget day in New Zealand, when traditionally the prime minister has an early morning breakfast with finance minister Grant Robertson. Typically, the two share cheese rolls – a south island New Zealand delicacy involving cheddar cheese and powdered soup rolled inside a piece of toasted white bread. This year, the breakfast took place via Instagram live stream – and the prime minister said the cheese rolls were missing their usual flavour notes.

“They’re going to taste just as good – but do you know what – I’m not going to know, because I’ve lost all my [sense of] taste,” Ardern said.

The finance minister encouraged her to focus on texture rather than flavour. “Enjoy your cheese roll, think about the texture rather than the taste on this occasion,” Robertson said.

Ardern remains in isolation and was absent in person from New Zealand’s budget announcement, the most important day of the political year. Speaking via video link to parliament, Ardern said: “My virtual presence in the debating chamber is obviously not to my preference on such a significant day.”

This year’s budget included a $1bn set of temporary measures, including cash payments, reductions to petrol taxes, and half-price public transport, to ease the cost of living crisis. “No temporary fast relief can be perfect, but it can make a difference,” Ardern said. The big-ticket spending from today’s budget was included $11.1bn for healthcare reform, and funding to address the climate crisis.

When she announced she had contracted Covid-19, the prime minister said she was “gutted” to miss the day. “There are so many important things happening for the government this week … I’m gutted to miss being there in person, but will be staying in close touch with the team and sharing some reckons from here,” she said.

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