National supporters threaten to abandon Simon Bridges after Facebook post criticising COVID-19 lockdown extension

Opposition leader Simon Bridges is defending a Facebook post he published criticising the extended COVID-19 lockdown after it received a flood of negative comments from National supporters.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that the alert level 4 lockdown had been extended for a week, and Bridges responded on Facebook by criticising the Government's response, prompting backlash in the comment section.

"Simon, I'm a National supporter but don't support what you've just said at all," one woman said. "Your comments are not doing you any favours. I'm glad the Government has allowed a week for businesses, workplaces and schools time to prepare."

Bridges, who leads the National Party, brushed off the criticism on Tuesday by insisting there will "be a bunch of different views" online and that people are "entitled" to those views.

The Facebook post he published accused the Government of not doing enough to prepare the country to come out of alert level 4. It also pointed to Australia where industries like retail and manufacturing have been able to continue.

"I'm sure many Kiwis feel frustration that we still can't do many things Australians have done through the entire lockdown period, at great cost in terms of jobs and livelihoods, with similar health outcomes," Bridges said.

"I now worry that the harm of staying in lockdown will be greater than if we were to come out. We will no doubt see a rise in mental health problems and stress related illnesses."

Newshub looked through the comments on Bridges' Facebook post and found that people who appear to be legitimate National Party supporters are backing the Government en masse and its decision to extend the lockdown for a week. 

Out of the 100 most recent comments on the post at the time of viewing it, Newshub found that four were in favour of the Opposition leader's remarks while 96 were opposed. 

"My National vote is quickly turning because of your attitude Simon Bridges. You are acting like a child," a Christchurch man wrote in the comment section. "Your days are numbered as leader. Every time you open your mouth you are losing voters."

An Auckland woman who works at a dental centre wrote: "I'm a National supporter but think the PM has made the right decision. I'm in a high risk industry that won't be able to operate fully until we are in level 1.

"Level 2 would be with restrictions due to the risk of transmission in the industry and I'm definitely not prepared to risk mine or my [family's] health. What is money if you don't have your health?"

There was some support for Bridges, including a Waikato man, who said: "Agree with you Simon. Not enough time spent on the economic side of things. Businesses are going to fail over this extra two and a half weeks."

Bridges said he has "real concerns" about the delay in healthcare for some people, like cancer treatment, screening and thousands of operations across the country that were put on hold to manage the COVID-19 outbreak.

He said Kiwis can be "proud of the sacrifices they have made during this difficult time", but said the Government must improve contact tracing, testing and the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) to "get our country moving again".

Bridges said the negative views online are "more than matched by over 50,000 people who contacted me in relation to our quarantining petition" - an idea that was adopted by the Government

"Of the many thousands who've emailed me as small business people, some of them bring me to tears the way they beg for help in this instance when they do feel like sacrificial lambs," Bridges said. 

The Ministry of Health confirmed just five new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases to 1445, while the death toll has risen to 13 after a woman in her 70s with the virus passed away.