Health Minister David Clark's COVID-19 rule-flouting a 'slap in the face' - mourner

The Health Minister is holding onto his job by a whisker after he suddenly remembered he breached the lockdown rules a second time following questions from Newshub.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told David Clark if we weren't in the midst of a global health emergency, he'd be sacked, and his job certainty is still very precarious.

The Health Minister's breach of the lockdown rules has disappointed Louise Parsons, whose elderly step-father who had dementia - and who she adored - died the day before the COVID-19 lockdown. 

"He was being cremated on his own on the day of lockdown, so my husband and I felt really, really uncomfortable about leaving our bubble," she told Newshub. 

They didn't leave their bubble but they did leave their house, trailing the hearse as a final farewell because lockdown rules meant they weren't allowed into the crematorium.

Parsons learnt on Tuesday that on that same weekend, the Health Minister flouted the rules.

"There's no way you can now tell people what to do when literally that weekend that I had to follow a hearse and couldn't get out of the car...  he was driving to the beach with his family," she told Newshub.

Dr Clark drove 20 kilometres from his North Dunedin home to Doctors Point beach for a walk - something he has been repeatedly warning us not to do.

Driving to a recreation location is expressly forbidden. It's Dr Clark's second offence after driving to a track to go mountain biking - a forbidden sport during lockdown.

"I don't see that there's any excuse for my behaviour - that's why I offered my resignation," he said on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, "Under normal circumstances I would sack the minister. What he did was wrong, and there are no excuses."

Instead, she has stripped him of his Associate Finance role and demoted him to the lowest ranking in her Cabinet - teetering on being cut completely. 

Newshub asked the Prime Minister if Dr Clark will be sacked once the pandemic is over and she responded: "I am totally focused on this and not hypotheticals. We need to get on with the job."

But it's questionable whether Dr Clark can even do that after a blundering appearance at Tuesday's COVID-19 Epidemic Response Committee during which he frequently passed questions on to Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.

"Shouldn't you be able to tell us? You're the Minister of Health," National leader Simon Bridges, the chair of the committee, asked him during the meeting. 

Dr Clark only came clean to the Prime Minister after Newshub asked on Monday about other lockdown breaches, and the question came up in his preparation for the committee meeting.

Four days after being busted for mountain biking, he had a sudden total recall.

"It was bloody obvious and I felt like a complete dick if I'm honest," Dr Clark told The AM Show.

But it's more than that.

Asked what message his actions have sent, Parsons told Newshub: "That we don't really matter. It's one rule for some and not others. It's a slap in the face, that's the best way to describe it."

The Prime Minister was asked how Dr Clark can do his job when he doesn't have moral authority.

She replied, "He has made a massive mistake. What he did was wrong and there are no excuses for it."

And yet, he holds onto one of the most important jobs in the country. 

Political Editor Tova O'Brien's analysis

David Clark is going to have to work bloody hard to regain the trust of the country. He's in the last chance saloon, and if he screws up again, he's gone.

That was a very strong message from the Prime Minister that she would've sacked him. She is livid, and serious consideration was given to accepting his resignation on Monday night.

David Clark is also not saying whether he'll stand at September's election - if indeed it still goes ahead, no firm decision has been made on that yet.

Jacinda Ardern is in an invidious position, she's trying to steer a steady ship during this crisis but the guy who should be her first mate acted like an arrogant dick.

Dr Clark has an axe hanging over his head. He has very little credibility and is distracting from the government's otherwise pretty impressive response to covid-19. His future as an effective Health Minister seems untenable.