The Prime Minister and director general of health have spoken out on accusations of hypocrisy over social distancing even as police refuse to say whether the pair will be warned over breaching level 2 rules.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a long weekend in Hawke's Bay. Photo / Supplied
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a long weekend in Hawke's Bay. Photo / Supplied

It follows the publication by the Herald of photographs showing Ardern posing with well-wishers in Hawke's Bay, and Bloomfield with restaurant staff after a meal.

Northland MP Matt King faced criticism after a similar photograph emerged of him with restaurant staff after a meal out when the country shifted to level 2.

At the time, the Ministry of Health put out a statement telling people to "maintain a 1-metre distance from people they don't know or wouldn't normally come into close contact with, where contact tracing is available".

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Dr Ashley Bloomfield with staff after a meal out. Photo / Supplied
Dr Ashley Bloomfield with staff after a meal out. Photo / Supplied

In cases where there was no contact tracing - such as well wishes greeting Ardern on the street - a 2-metre distance should be observed.

Ardern said she tried to remind people to keep their distance but it was not always possible.

"I have had situations where people have moved into photos with me closer than I would have liked. But I will continue to advocate for social distancing and I will continue to do my best in those situations to step away from people.

"There will be the odd occasion where I haven't managed to sidestep quickly enough or I had been in a situation where I have had people come alongside."

And Bloomfield said he was following his own rules.

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"I could say that by the end of the dinner these people were no longer strangers but it was very fleeting."

He said the restaurant had used all the right processes, including signing customers in and out, and he was asked to "very momentarily participate in a photograph". He said the photograph was similar to those taken with the Governor-General when he dined recently at Government House.

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"This was in level 2. I visited a restaurant with a group of friends. We were a group of 10. One couple didn't come because one of them was unwell, which was the most important thing.

National leader Todd Muller said he believed all people had tried to follow best practice.

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"I'm sure they were very disappointed that got captured."

Muller said he had experienced similar difficulty over the weekend when visiting a mall and being approached by well-wishers.

"The point has been made. They are the ones who set the rules and ideally they should set a perfect example but in this environment perfect is difficult.

"I think it is disappointing but the greater issue for me is we should move to Level 1 today."

Northland MP Matt King - third from left - with parents Joe and Jen and staff of Paihia's Green restaurant. Photo / Supplied
Northland MP Matt King - third from left - with parents Joe and Jen and staff of Paihia's Green restaurant. Photo / Supplied

Deputy PM Winston Peters said: "We all get caught in circumstances where someone gets too close for a photograph."

He said King was guilty himself of breaking lockdown rules and was "proud of it".

King yesterday made the claim of hypocrisy in relation to receiving a police phone call over the photograph of him with restaurant staff, asking whether police would also be speaking to Ardern and Bloomfield.

He would not be drawn on it further today, instead saying his focus was on the country moving to level 1 for the sake of businesses.

Police refused to say whether complaints had been lodged against Ardern or Bloomfield, or whether they would be spoken to. Police said they would not make comment for privacy reasons.

However, yesterday police confirmed King had been spoken to over the photograph of him at a restaurant in Paihia.

The statement from police did not mention King by name but was in response to questions by the Herald about the Northland MP.

It said: "Police can confirm that a man was spoken to after two complaints were received relating to a breach of physical distancing at a Northland restaurant.

"Police have a graduated response to breach complaints and we continue to educate and encourage compliance with restrictions.

"The man was spoken to and educated around the restrictions in place regarding physical distancing during alert level 2."

The statement said the restaurant had also been spoken to by Worksafe NZ "to remind them about maintaining physical distancing".

The Herald has complained to the Ombudsman on the basis public interest outweighs the Prime Minister and Director-General of Health's privacy interest.