Health Minister forced back to Parliament next week to answer questions on COVID-19 response

Health Minister David Clark is being forced back to Parliament to answer questions next week as the nation shifts into COVID-19 alert level 3. 

With the lockdown lifting on Tuesday and restrictions around travel for essential work being loosened, a few key ministers and MPs will return for a pared-back Parliament.

Leader of the House Chris Hipkins said on Tuesday returning MPs will include "key roles like the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Health". 

As for how MPs will get back to Wellington, they can use essential travel, but most of them will be asked to drive if they can and flights will be allowed in special circumstances.

"There are some who will need to fly, for example, the Minister of Health. I think there is an appetite to see him back at Parliament so that he can be questioned," Hipkins said.

Under COVID-19 alert level 3 and level 2, over-70s are asked to stay home.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters is "considered an essential worker", despite him recently celebrating his 75th birthday at home 10 days ago.

Newshub pointed out to the Director-General that Peters is a septuagenarian - a person who is between 70 and 79 years old - and asked if returning to Parliament will be safe for him.

"Well, I think the measures that have been put in place... both here and in every workplace, are designed to protect all New Zealanders," Dr Bloomfield said.

Like all workplaces under alert level 3, MPs will be physically distanced in the House.

National leader Simon Bridges, who has been chairing the videoconference Epidemic Response Committee, said Zoom "ain't going to cut it, we need a proper Parliament".

The lack of a proper Parliament hasn't meant a lack of politics.

Bridges opposed the extended lockdown and blamed the Government for failing to prepare. He posted his view on Facebook and was personally eviscerated by National supporters.

Newshub asked Bridges if he recognised that it fell flat with his supporters, and he said: "Look, there will be a bunch of different views."

He says it's balanced by the thousands of cries for help he receives.

"Some of them bring me to tears the way they beg for help and assistance at a time when they do feel like sacrificial lambs."

You can read more about Parliament returning here.