David Clark has hit back at critics who say he should be fronting the daily COVID-19 press conferences, thanking those who have "filled in" during his absence.
Dr Clark lives in Dunedin, and that's where he's stayed during the lockdown - aside from an ill-judged drive to a local bike track a few weeks back that dominated the news cycle for a few days.
"I obviously got it wrong early on in the lockdown, and I apologise for that. And I stand by that apology. I did get it wrong," he told Newshub Nation on Saturday.
The daily updates on New Zealand's COVID-19 response have been handled by a mix of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Finance Minister Grant Robertson, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield and Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay.
The right-leaning Taxpayers' Union this week started a satirical competition called 'Where's David?', cheekily offering the prize of a mountain bike to people who spot the Health Minister doing his job.
Dr Clark told Newshub Nation like other MPs, he was told to stay home.
"We were asked to go back to our electorates to make sure that we were able to be in our communities like everybody else in New Zealand, locked up and in our bubbles. Now, I have been able to do interviews as I'm doing with you right now."
Host Simon Shepherd asked Dr Clark whether as Health Minister he should have been front and centre of "probably one of the biggest health crises of this country is ever going to experience".
"I think you'll acknowledge, Simon, that the Prime Minister, the Director-General and the others that have filled in there have done an extraordinary job, but so, too, have New Zealanders. It's actually about the efforts of New Zealanders. And I think the numbers speak to themselves."
New Zealand's efforts at controlling the spread of the virus have been praised internationally.
"It doesn't make a great deal of difference where I am as long as I'm accessible to the media when required," said Dr Clark. "I'm on the phone all day having the same conversations and on the Zoom meetings, having the same conversations, I would be having Zoom meetings at Wellington in my bubble if I were there."
He will be back in Wellington when the pandemic alert level drops to level 3 next week.
"I've been in the Zoom conferences for the select committee, just like everybody else who's in their bubbles Zooming into those press conferences. In fact, you'll see there has been criticism of those who've actually driven to be there," he added, referring to criticism of National Party leader Simon Bridges' long drives from Tauranga to Wellington.