COVID-19: Ashley Bloomfield casually references Benee during COVID briefing

Ashley Bloomfield has attempted to show off his pop culture knowledge with a casual reference to Kiwi artist Benee - but he didn't quite succeed.

Speaking at Tuesday's COVID-19 briefing, the Director-General of Health made a nod to the 20-year-old 'Supalonely' hitmaker - real name Stella Bennett - who has made waves internationally with her quirky brand of alternative pop

Yet the public servant unwittingly botched the 'Benee' moniker, pronouncing the stage name with an accented twang.

"If there are large, indoor events outside of Auckland - for example, you think of a music concert - there's almost certainly an opportunity for Aucklanders to attend those in Auckland, they're unlikely to be travelling. For example, to a Beneé concert outside of Auckland," he said with a smile.

Dr Bloomfield was discussing his advice to Cabinet ahead of Monday's decision to shift Auckland to alert level 2. The Director-General of Health advised Cabinet to consider imposing a maximum number of attendees for indoor gatherings, where there is a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 due to close proximity between guests.

Instead, Cabinet opted to work with organisers of upcoming gatherings and implement measures to mitigate the risk, such as physical distancing, NZ COVID Tracer app usage and keeping a record of the event's seating plan.

Dr Bloomfield said he supported the approach.

"I think it was good because it addresses the potential risk that I had identified."

Benee. Photo credit: Getty

The public servant has proved popular with the New Zealand public, gaining both local and international prominence for his cool, calm and collected demeanor fronting the regular COVID-19 updates.

Dr Bloomfield has inspired a number of Kiwis to get creative, with hands towels, 3D caricatures, drawings and even Te Papa artworks bearing his likeness.

The leading health official was unaware of his 'Beneé' blunder, but the namedrop did draw a few giggles in the Newshub newsroom.