Photographs have emerged of the Prime Minister and director general of health posed for pictures close to wellwishers, prompting accusations of hypocrisy from a National Party MP warned by police for doing the same.
It has led to an admission from the Prime Minister it was a struggle to maintain "appropriate distancing" with people approaching wanting "handshakes and hugs".
Bloomfield also confirmed he was in a photograph with strangers but said it was only for a moment.
Northland MP Matt King produced the photographs after facing public criticism when he posted to Facebook photographs of himself with staff from a restaurant in Paihia where he had dined.
King told the Herald today coverage of the photograph led to a phone call from a senior Northland police officer who reminded him of social distancing rules.
"I felt sorry for the cop. He was a senior cop. He said: 'This is not a formal warning - you're standing too close'."
Then he was sent photographs showing Jacinda Ardern with supporters in Hawke's Bay over the weekend, and Dr Ashley Bloomfield with staff at a restaurant.
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King said he wants to know if the Prime Minister and Bloomfield will also receive phone calls from police.
When the photograph of King with restaurant staff was posted, the Ministry of Health said Covid-19 social distancing rules meant the public should "maintain a one-metre distance from people they don't know or wouldn't normally come into close contact with, where contact tracing is available".
In cases where they were with people they did not know, the Ministry of Health said the distance was "two metres when contact tracing is not available".
A statement at the time said: "Even if there aren't cases in a particular area, we need New Zealanders to remain vigilant to ensure we don't see a spike in cases."
The photographs of Ardern show her with people inside that two-metre zone. They were said to have been taken in Hawke's Bay over the long weekend.
The photograph of Bloomfield - also standing inside the distance recommended by his own ministry - was posted online on May 23. Among the hundreds of comments the image attracted were those questioning the distance between Bloomfield and the restaurant staff.
Over the weekend, the Prime Minister's chief science adviser, Professor Juliet Gerrard, and research analyst Rachel Chiaroni-Clarke, warned "a single imported Covid-19 case can create a cluster that quickly spawns hundreds more".
In an article published in the Herald, they cited a University of Otago study that said New Zealand's current contact tracing and health systems meant the country needed "27 to 33 days without any new cases (to have) a 95 per cent probability New Zealand has completely eliminated the virus".
And University of Otago epidemiologist Sir David Skegg said those calling for an immediate move to alert level 1 were either ignorant or trying to score political points.
King said he believed - as did the National Party - that the country should move to level 1 now.
"For me, personally, I don't care that she's done that. But the hypocrisy of it all - encouraging people to nark others out over a stupid rule."
King said the country should move to level 1 and that the fight against Covid-19 had been won. "It should be today - it should be now. We've had a win - social distancing is out the window."
He said the view he held appeared to reflect the public mood, judging by the behaviour of those he had seen in the community. He said public attitudes appeared to show widespread disregard for social distancing rules.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said "she was at pains over the weekend to ask members of the public to keep appropriate distancing when interacting".
"There were a number of handshakes and hugs she had to unfortunately decline and best endeavours were made to keep separated when people asked for photos."
A spokesman for the Ministry of Health confirmed the photograph was taken after a restaurant dinner during level 2.
He said proper care around seating, separation and single servers had been followed.
"Dr Bloomfield and two restaurant staff members came together very briefly for a photograph.
"There was no other mixing or mingling, all food and drinks were served seated at the table, appropriate spacing was used during the dinner and, most importantly, no one attending the dinner with Dr Bloomfield was unwell.
"Other precautions included the use of hand sanitiser, registering and signing in at the restaurant."
The spokesman said it was "great that New Zealanders continue to be aware of the importance of ongoing vigilance around Covid-19".
Those advocating for a shift to level 1 have latched on to large public gatherings yesterday during which hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of people clustered to protest the death in the United States of George Floyd, a black man who died while in the custody of a white police officer.
King said urgency to shift to level 1 was key to the survival of small and medium-sized businesses. Just yesterday, he had spoken to a woman who broke down in tears at the prospect of her business not surviving - a dilemma he sympathised with as the former owner of a small business.
King - a former police officer - owned and operated the mid-North Honda franchise in Northland before politics. He employed six staff, and said he was always just three months away from closing the business's doors, a situation familiar to anyone running a business of a similar size.
The company's viability relied on King and his wife, Sarah, underwriting the company's debt provision with the family home, which carried its own anxiety.
King said there had to be a balance between diminishing health risks and the survival of businesses essential to New Zealand's economy.
"If it's all about saving lives on the road, let's have a 20km/hr speed limit - how ridiculous is that?"