"She needs to get out more."

National Party leader Todd Muller has taken a swipe at Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, after her claims earlier this week that the economy is back on track.

"I've been speaking to small businesses and larger over the last couple weeks - I mean they are haemorrhaging. The anxiety and stress in the half-million plus businesses in this country is extraordinary.

"They're having to constrain their activity while New Zealanders, particularly in the last week or so, have largely moved in their heads to level 1."


Ardern's claim last week that the economy had largely bounced back was completely untrue, he said.

"She needs to get out more and listen to businesses who are suffering, haemorraghing" Muller said.

Ardern is being urged to move into alert level 1 immediately in light of criteria in a leaked Cabinet paper that includes a 28-day window of no community transmission.

The most recent such case was reported on April 30 - 34 days ago - but director general of health Ashley Bloomfield has said the last cases of concern were actually from about two months ago.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Muller, who quoted the Cabinet paper during Question Time yesterday, both used the community transmission criteria to push for a move to level 1.

Muller told Hosking this morning that the leaked paper about returning to level 1 just "appeared" and its details were "extraordinary".

"This is why Winston Peters has been saying for well over 10 days we should be returning to level 1."

Muller said he believed the economic state of the country had dropped off Labour's radar. Most people had moved to level 1 in their heads already.


Meanwhile, a rent package for small companies that is to be announced this morning would be "suboptimal" and "overly bureaucratic" if it didn't apply to everyone, Muller said.

He believed all businesses should have had support facilitated right from the start, for at least a couple of months, to help with fixed costs rather than just the wage subsidy.

Ardern is standing firm on having D-Day on Monday, June 8, saying there are other factors in the decision.

"Earlier than that would not have given sufficient confidence that transmission was not occurring that has not yet been detected," she said while being questioned by Muller in the House yesterday.

"The incubation period of the virus is up to 14 days; it's only been 13 days since bars reopened and five days since gathering sizes were lifted to 100."

That prompted Muller to question how insufficient confidence squared with Bloomfield's comments that no one in the 4000-person march on Monday needed to self-isolate because there was no evidence of community transmission.


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Yesterday marked 12 straight days of no reported cases.

The last reported case was also the country's only remaining active case, an Auckland woman in her 50s, who was first suspected of having Covid-19 on May 1.

Ardern said that level 1 was essentially pre-Covid life with strict border measures in place.

There will be no restrictions at shops or restaurants, no physical distancing requirements, and no limits on gatherings.

Churches, sports events, concerts, conferences and weddings and funerals of any size can all resume.


The Cabinet paper said that alert level 1 was so permissive because it was predicated on no community transmission.

"If that has been achieved, and we have confidence in our border controls, there is theoretically no need for restrictions on people's movements, interactions or activities."

There will be no distancing rules at bars and restaurants at level 1, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says. All restrictions on businesses, like hospitality, would be lifted with no distancing of tables.

Muller quoted the paper, which is in Ardern's name, during Question Time yesterday to push the case for a move to level 1.

"Alert level 1 means there has been a period of more than 28 days with no new cases of Covid-19 caused by community transmission, and there is an extremely low public health risk from the virus."

He said every day at level 2 allowed businesses to sink further, adding: "Why wait till midnight Wednesday, when the whole country needs us to be in level 1 today?"

Ardern did not deny it was a leaked Cabinet paper - an embarrassment because it shows the Government's systems are not watertight.


It is also a boost for Muller, who described it as a sign of "internal division", as it is the first leak to National since he took over the leadership.

Ardern told the House that community transmission was only one of the factors that would inform Cabinet's decision.

Others included the economy, the public's willingness to comply with alert level rules, trends in transmission, and Bloomfield's confidence in the Covid data.

"We know there is asymptomatic transmission. We know there is a long tail," she said.

"We must listen to the advice not only of the scientists, epidemiologists, but also the director general of health."

She took a shot at Muller: "If the member thinks he knows more than all of them combined, I congratulate him but I would rather listen to the advice, get it right and not risk our economy."


She conceded it had been a month since the last community transmission case, but added that it had only been 12 days since a case was reported.

The Ministry of Health's elimination strategy is to have confidence "we have eliminated chains of transmission in our community for at least 28 days and can effectively contain any future imported cases from overseas".

It doesn't say if that refers to community transmission cases, where the source of infection is unknown, or any transmission that isn't an imported case.

PM Jacinda Ardern and National Party leader Todd Muller verbally sparred in the House yesterday. Photo / Getty
PM Jacinda Ardern and National Party leader Todd Muller verbally sparred in the House yesterday. Photo / Getty

Yesterday Bloomfield said the ministry was still working on the criteria for the 28-day window.

He said the string of zero-case days was "very encouraging", but elimination was an ongoing process, not a point in time.

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The Cabinet paper includes a reference to the "golden rules" of public health messaging at level 1, which Ardern outlined yesterday.


They include:

• If you're sick, stay home

• If you have cold or flu symptoms, call your doctor and get tested

• Wash your hands

• Sneeze or cough into your elbow and disinfect shared surfaces

• Isolate immediately if told to do so by authorities


• If you have underlying conditions, talk with your GP about precautions

• Keep track of where you've been

• Businesses should help keeping track

Meanwhile Ardern and Bloomfield defended being photographed in close proximity with others.

Ardern said she was not always able to "sidestep quickly enough", while Bloomfield said it had been a "fleeting" moment in a restaurant that had otherwise followed all the proper health precautions.

Muller said it was disappointing, given the physical distancing expectations at level 2, but everyone was trying to follow best practice.