Simon Bridges admits he 'should have been further apart' from supermarket staff in photo shared online

Opposition leader Simon Bridges has admitted he "should have been further apart" from supermarket staff in a photo posted online he says was taken before New Zealand went into lockdown.

The image, showing Bridges next to New World Mount Maunganui owner Allan Rudkin and another staff member called Maria, appears to have been originally posted online by the National Party leader and then deleted.

A screenshot of the tweet was posted on social networking website Reddit 13 days ago, which is just before the Government ordered the alert level 4 COVID-19 lockdown.

Bridges was asked about the image speaking to Magic Talk on Monday, as the image resurfaced on Twitter, with some accusing the Opposition leader of breaking the lockdown rules by interacting closely with the New World staff in the image.

Bridges told Magic Talk the image was not taken during the lockdown, but admitted, "We still knew at that stage, I suppose, that we should have been further apart."

The MP for Tauranga added, "I want to make sure that in everything I'm doing outside of my bubble - my home - I'm well away in social distancing, to use the correct phrase, from people."

Bridges said he "suspects there's a bit of that going on" at supermarkets and urged people to "try hard over time to make sure that we're not getting too close, whether it's Allan Rudkin or anyone else".

Simon Bridges admits he 'should have been further apart' from supermarket staff in photo shared online
Photo credit: Reddit

Bridges isn't the only MP to face questions about following the lockdown rules. 

Health Minister David Clark came under fire last week for appearing to break the lockdown rules when he drove 2km in Dunedin to go mountain bike riding. 

Dr Clark's actions sparked backlash from search and rescue operators who told Newshub it put them at risk because staff would have to be sent out to rescue him if something went wrong. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Dr Clark's behalf that he had apologised to her, and she said she expected better of him. 

It prompted the Government to release a list of what's allowed during the lockdown, with activities such as hunting, tramping or "other activities of a kind that expose participants to danger or may require search and rescue services", ruled out. 

It comes as Scotland's chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, resigned after facing criticism for breaking her own coronavirus lockdown rules twice to visit her second home. 

Bridges will continue his role this week as chair of the Epidemic Response Committee, a group of 11 majority Opposition lawmakers, who meet three times a week via videoconference to hear from experts and scrutinise the Government's COVID-19 response. 

The Health Minister will appear before the committee on Tuesday along with Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield, but Bridges said he will not question Dr Clark about his controversial bike ride. 

"There's obviously a bit of an elephant in the room there, but to be honest, while that wasn't good enough, that's not going to be the focus for us," Bridges told Magic Talk. 

"It's going to be much more about testing, tracing, PPE [personal protective equipment] and why we haven't quarantined the border."