Ministers will tomorrow gather to discuss a potential move out of level 2 as a key Cabinet member openly criticises the Government's Covid-19 response.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters yesterday took a swing at the Government – a Government which he is a major part of, saying: "We could have done better on Covid-19."
He went further, telling media that New Zealand had "let our guard down".
"Too many things fell through the traps, or the holes so to speak, that were deliberately left there by the bureaucracy ... The fact of the matter is that the Labour ministers are the only ones in charge of all that."
His comments were quickly dismissed by his Labour Cabinet colleagues.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins said New Zealand's overall level of Covid-19 response "speaks for its self" and he "didn't agree" with Peters' criticism.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand had done "exceptionally well" with its Covid-19 efforts.
"I think we do a disservice to every single New Zealander who has been part of that team effort if we don't acknowledge that," she told media before going into the House.
"Ultimately, I think what we are seeing really more than anything else is just the fact we're getting closer to an election," she said, of Peters' remarks.
The back-and-forth between the Government allies capped off the last day of the 52nd Parliament.
The House officially adjourned for the election campaign yesterday – the campaign kicks off in earnest today, with MPs travelling across the country.
Despite this, Cabinet will still meet tomorrow to assess the level 2 settings across New Zealand – Peters will attend via zoom.
The current alert level settings are in place until September 6 – this Sunday.
But Ardern said that a decision will be announced before then.
This comes as director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield yesterday revealed there were five new Covid-19 cases, of which three were in the community.
They have all been linked back to the Mt Roskill "mini-cluster".
The other two were imported cases detected at managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities.
The number of overall cases will be one factor ministers will be assessing tomorrow.
They will also be paying close attention to how widespread the virus is – at the moment, there is only one Covid-19 cluster made up of just over 100 people.
The fact that the cluster is "contained" – according to director of public health Caroline McElnay – is an important factor behind any decision to move down an alert level.
And the country can still move into level 1 without the "complete elimination" of Covid-19, Hipkins told a health select committee yesterday.
In fact, new linked cases are expected to keep popping up given the fact that this cluster has a long tail, Hipkins said.
But, new cases with no link to other cases would be cause for concern and may see a move back up alert levels, he said.
"Our ultimate goal is to avoid further level 3 lockdowns as much as we possibly can."
Meanwhile, Hipkins said there would be many people in Auckland "enjoying their freedom" and would be looking ahead to their first weekend at level 2.
But he said Aucklanders still need to follow the rules.
"Keep wearing your masks and if you are travelling outside of Auckland, during the week or during the weekend, please act as if you were at home."
That also means if Aucklanders are out of the city, they should not be going to gatherings of more than 10 people.
That means "take your Auckland alert level 2.5 with you wherever you go," Hipkins said.
"Please behave as if you were still in Auckland."