Health Minister David Clark is standing by comments he made yesterday, after which he was accused of throwing Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield under a bus.

But Clark stopped short of apologising to his health boss, saying the pair have a "close working relationship".

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, however, said neither man is responsible for recent border blunders.

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"There is no way a general can be responsible for the actions of a soldier in the field," he told the House this afternoon.

He said the "general is not responsible, any more than the minister was, in these cases".
This comes after Clark was accused of humiliating Bloomfield yesterday in a media stand-up.

At the time, Clark said: "The Director-General has accepted protocol wasn't being followed; he has accepted responsibility for that and has set about putting it right".

Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Photo / File
Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Photo / File

He delivered this line while Bloomfield was standing behind him.

National leader Todd Muller said this was appalling behaviour and his health spokesman, Michael Woodhouse, said Clark owed Bloomfield and apology.

But asked if he would apologies to Bloomfield, Clark just repeated earlier statements that Bloomfield was "absolutely pivotal".

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"On many occasions, I have acknowledged him as an exceptional public servant and I do stand by those comments."

When pressed further, Clark said: "I have confidence in him and stand by my comments yesterday."

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He said he has ministerial responsibility for the health system, "both good and bad".

Clark did say that both he and Bloomfield had been let down.

In recent days, it was revealed that almost all of the 55 people, who left managed isolation under compassionate grounds, had not been tested for Covid-19 before leaving.

"Both Dr Bloomfield and I have been let down in this situation – we are both focused on making sure the problems that we have found, are fixed," Clark said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters' comments in the House appeared to absolve both Clark and Bloomfield of responsibility over the saga.

"We know that at specific sites, there were examples of failure. At none of those sites was it the clear and present responsibility of Dr Ashley Bloomfield, or the Minister for Health."