Health Ministry head Dr Ashley Bloomfield says he has a "very good" relationship with Health Minister David Clark, despite Clark appearing to blame him for quarantine breaches.
Speaking about quarantine bungles at a media stand-up yesterday, Clark said: "The director-general has accepted that the protocol wasn't being followed. He has accepted responsibility for that and has set about putting it right."
In the background, Dr Bloomfield looked down briefly, appearing dejected at the comment - a moment captured by a MediaWorks camera operator and described as "brutal" by MediaWorks political editor Tova O'Brien.
The clip - which followed controversy over New Zealand's lax quarantine rules - has gone viral on social media.
But Bloomfield today reaffirmed his commitment to Clark
He said his relationship with the minister was "very good".
He said he was not aware of a public fundraiser to buy him flowers after Clark's criticism yesterday, but said he would prefer that people gave money to a local charity instead.
Asked if the Minister of Health had apologised to him, Bloomfield's reply was curt:
Twitter users have been quick to defend Bloomfield while also heavily criticising Clark, who broke lockdown rules on two occasions himself, and was demoted in the Cabinet by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
"Bloomfield was fronting every day doing what the Health Minister should be doing. Meanwhile, Clark was swanning around mountain biking," one person tweeted.
"He didn't even follow lockdown himself," another said.
A week into the country's full-scale alert level 4 lockdown in April, a photo of Clark's van - complete with his face plastered on the side of it - was spotted at a Dunedin mountain bike park.
He admitted going for a bike ride and later revealed he had also taken a 20km trip to the beach, also during lockdown.
Reacting to the footage, other members of the public labelled Clark's move and failure to take any responsibility for the botch-ups as "spineless and cruel" and called for his resignation - again.
"Dr Bloomfield, the professional that he is, has been front and centre for months speaking for whole response while Clark has been (missing in action). Clark should be fired."
"Ashley Bloomfield fronted up nearly every day of the lockdown - probably didn't even rest on his rare days off," another tweeted.
"He kept us informed, didn't dramatise, just gave us the facts. He could have made mincemeat of David Clark over mountain bike-gate, but the man has more class than that."