Chris Hipkins and Newstalk ZB host Mike Hosking have clashed over the Government's pandemic response strategy, with the minister insisting he believes the country can get back to zero Covid cases.
In an at times testy interview, Hipkins said the Government would still use every tool to try and get the number of cases back to zero.
This prompted Hosking to declare that the Government's elimination strategy was a waste of time.
"I admire your acting skills to stand there yesterday with 45 and say elimination is still a goal, good on you for trying to play it but I mean no one believes you ... no one believes you," Hosking said,
"Look, we still are aiming for getting back down to zero," Hipkins replied.
"Chris, aim all you want, it isn't working. When are you going to wave the white flag and just let us get on with it?" Hosking said.
"We're certainly not waving the white flag in the way that it would make the situation worse," Hipkins said.
"The best situation, shot for New Zealand is to get these cases continued to get back to zero."
Hosking: "But at what point do you face reality. Aiming for zero, we're seven and a half weeks in, it hasn't worked, it isn't working, how many weeks do you want to hold level 3 for Auckland, level 2 for the rest of the country, just to get your experiment to zero which is never going to happen anyway?"
Hipkins replied if the country wanted freedom Kiwis had for the past 18 months then a higher vaccination rate was needed.
Hosking said: "It's not true ... we haven't had freedom for 40 days and counting the rest of the world is out and running."
Hipkins said that yesterday's spike up to 45 cases would likely have happened whether Auckland was in level 3 or 4.
As for 12 of those cases being unlinked yesterday, Hipkins said that number had now dropped to six. The other six were still under investigation.
He said he expected a smaller number of Covid cases today as only a "small amount" were identified yesterday afternoon so it would depend what was thrown up overnight.
"I take some comfort from the fact that the majority of yesterday's cases were linked but a big number is still a big number."
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He accepted hundreds and hundreds of people were back at work in level 3 but that had not caused the sub clusters.
"The shift from level 4 to level 3 hasn't made a huge difference in terms of the contact they've had.
"Even if they were at level 4 it doesn't necessarily mean we wouldn't have had the big day we got yesterday."
As for how long Auckland had to remain at level 3, Hipkins said if Kiwis wanted to continue to have freedom, they needed fewer Covid cases and a higher vaccination rate.
Singapore was now reimposing restrictions, and the UK's summer of freedom will likely end soon with almost all modelling showing it would end up back in a lockdown.
He said New Zealand had different challenges, and the Government was not willing to live with a large number of active cases in the community.
The higher the vaccination rate, the less likely it would be that level four restrictions would be imposed.
Hipkins ruled out a more direct approach about testing and relied on goodwill and it "only works if people are willing to cooperate".
Asked about gangs and the lack of cooperation in Clover Park yesterday - out of 100 houses on four streets only nine people were tested - Hipkins said they wouldn't rule out a more "direct" approach.
"We do rely a lot on goodwill. Contact tracing and testing and only works if people are willing to cooperate."
Hipkins also said the contact tracers had been getting good cooperation from gangs to work out their movements.
As for the slowed rate of jabs, he said the Government knew it would get to the point where demand would flip from first doses to second doses: "First doses are lower than we need them to be if we're going to get them up to those higher rates of vaccination."
The age cohort causing the slowdown were those aged under 35, he said.
As for incentives, Hipkins said some were out there already and he would not rule out nationwide incentives.