A simple photo of the PM with more than 100 young people at Youth Parliament has sparked one of those rare bipartisan moments, as National MPs waded in to defend PM Jacinda Ardern from the barbs.
The photo was a perfectly normal one – had it been taken three years ago.
The trouble was that not so long after the PM had urged everybody to "mask, mask, mask" to try to avoid the second Omicron wave, there was only one mask to be seen and it was not on the PM.
Nice photo, shame about the smiles.
The biggest mistake the PM made was perhaps in posting the photo on social media for all to see – and judge – although someone else would invariably have done it anyway.
Even if the PM only took off her mask for a tiny moment for that photo, the photo makes that moment last forever. The criticism duly followed.
Experts voiced disappointment, saying the photo sent the wrong message at a time people were being asked to accept masks as normal.
Former PM Helen Clark tweeted: "Indeed shocking to see the unmasked Youth Parliament. What on earth are they thinking. NZ is in the middle of a pandemic surge."
A week earlier, Ardern had decided not to move the country to red or change the rules at orange.
She had insisted the existing orange restrictions were enough for the second wave of Omicron, even with its slippery sub-variants, but only if people actually followed those rules – especially the mask rules.
If you are not going to lead by enforcement, surely you should lead by example.
The PM belatedly realised that, saying on Wednesday afternoon that she was frequently asked to remove her mask for a photo "and in future, I'll be more vigilant about politely declining".
Two National MPs went into bat for Ardern: Nicola Willis and Chris Bishop.
Willis said the critics should give the PM a break, saying most people would take a mask off for a photo or something similar. Bishop said similar.
There is some self-protection in this: those in glass houses should not throw stones.
National MP Matt Doocey was in the same photo, also maskless – and there are multiple examples of National's Christopher Luxon swanning around with either a loose mask or no mask. Within the rules, but nonetheless.
But Bishop also said there were bigger things to worry about, and he is quite right.
It did not help the PM's case that on the same day, director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield had his farewell party. Because of the second wave, that was downsized from a grand feast with karaoke and a cast of thousands to a far more spartan and miserable affair at which masks were to be worn throughout and there was no food or drink.
Now that is living by example, poor Bloomfield, right to the bitter end.
Nor did it help her that the Green Party cancelled its annual conference in Christchurch and went online, because of the risk its members would spread or get Covid-19. Bloomfield urged others holding events to defer until the end of the surge or take precautions.
Neither of those things had to be done under the orange rules. Both were examples of people making their own decisions about what steps to take to try to lower the risk.
Ardern is at that tricky juncture of trying to show that life in New Zealand is as normal as it can be, while also trying to encourage people not to put that at risk by ignoring sensible precautions.
It is a matter of calculated risks. She had just travelled to Europe, Australia and Fiji, where there were multiple photos taken without masks on.
She keeps up a relatively normal travel and visits schedule domestically – with masks. But at times, the two aims can contradict each other, especially as the second wave gathers steam.
Ardern is not the only one negotiating this. National too has its annual conference coming up, and has determined that will go ahead in person.
The counter-point on the PM's mask is just as valid. Have some got a bit too precious and vigilant about these things?
It is at least arguable it was a technical breach of the rules, even if only a fleeting one.
In the olden days, when the country was governed by the now defunct alert levels instead of the looser traffic light rules, there was a running joke about Parliament was something of an independent state governed by Trevor Levels.
That was because Mallard's rules for Parliament were almost always a few steps tougher than the rules that applied outside Parliament.
That remains the case now. Even at the green setting, the Speaker's rules stipulate "masks are to be worn while moving around precinct at all levels." That is especially the case in the public areas of the precinct. They are only supposed to be taken off when eating or drinking at a function, or in Copperfields café. For clear communication, MPs are allowed to remove masks for media interviews – but the media must be masked.
The photo was taken in the Beehive reception area – the most public area of all.
There is no specific mention of Parliament in the Ministry of Health rules for the orange setting – and the Speaker's rules reign supreme there.
But the orange rules do mandate masks in "public venues and facilities" such as museums and libraries – and in all "premises operated by local and central government agencies, social service providers and NZ Police."
And the advice Bloomfield gave for the second wave was over and above the written rules: the rule of thumb was to keep your mask on when inside, except in your own home.