Dr Siouxsie Wiles has hit back at a jibe made by National leader Judith Collins, who called the microbiologist a "big fat hypocrite".
A video of Dr Wiles sitting on a beach in Auckland chatting to a friend without a mask on last Thursday went viral, with many people - including Collins - slamming her for being a hypocrite.
Dr Wiles cycled 5km to meet her friend at Judge's Bay and the friend later went for a swim - which is against lockdown rules.
Dr Wiles frequently encourages people to follow COVID-19 rules, and is on the record as recently as August 18 advising the public to "stay away from people" and to "physically disconnect for a little while".
Wiles later clarified the friend was in her bubble. "I was with someone from my bubble, who lives in the area... Judges Bay is about 5km from my home which is pretty local when on a bicycle."
That was not enough for Collins though, who during a virtual conversation with a Pacific group aligned with the National Party, laid into Dr Wiles.
"I think she's a big fat hypocrite, actually, and I'm sick and tired of listening to her telling everyone else what to do, and here we have the evidence that she had travelled from Freemans Bay to go and visit with her friend on the beach at Judges Bay in Parnell," Collins said.
"That's about 5km, and unless she ran there - and I doubt it - then she wasn't exercising. No masks on, sitting there on the beach, and the friend goes off for a swim. I watched that video, and I thought: big fat hypocrite.
"I'm so sick of her telling us all what to do. She's not doing it? Just do it... If those TV stations have her back on telling everyone what to do, I think we should just turn them off."
Wiles then hit back at Collins, saying she had cycled from her home to the bay: "Hey @JudithCollinsMP - thanks for your interest in my exercise habits. You never heard of bicycles?! They are awesome for getting around the city, especially at Level 4 when there are so few cars about."
Wiles also addressed her friend going for a swim: "Yes, my friend went for a paddle. Yes, she broke the rules. To be fair, she wasn’t in any danger. But that’s not the point. She broke the rules and she shouldn’t have done. I should have stopped her. But she’s a grown woman and I’m not her mum."
At the regular 1pm Friday press conference Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield was asked if he thought Dr Wiles was breaking the lockdown laws.
Dr Bloomfield said he received an explanation from Dr Wiles.
"I've had a message from Siouxsie who described what happened. From what she told me, it didn't sound like protocols were breached, and I don't think that the person who went into the water what they did could be described as a swim," he said.
"I know Siouxsie quite well and, like me, she has got a bit of a public profile, and so there's often - when these things happen - speculation and interest in them, so she reached out to me to just explain to me objectively what had happened."
Dr Bloomfield told Newshub it's OK under alert level 4 to cycle 5km from your home with someone from your bubble and not be wearing a mask.
"Yes, it is," he said. "The Prime Minister has earlier talked about, if you are keeping well away from other people and you're undertaking exercise on the more vigorous side, yes that is fine."