Coronavirus: National leader Simon Bridges says New Zealand should be in alert level 2 now

National leader Simon Bridges says New Zealand should be on alert level 2 by now, with the country only in its first week in alert level 3.

New Zealand moved to alert level 3 at 11:59pm on Monday for at least two weeks. Further decisions about alert levels and where the country goes next will be made on May 11.

But Opposition leader Bridges said he's "tempted to say" the country should be in alert level 2 now.

"I think we can do it safely and sooner than later," he told Stuff's Coronavirus NZ podcast.

"Whether it's now or iteratively in a little while, I certainly am impatient for it."

At alert level 3, some people have been able to return to work. Businesses that can enforce physical distancing and contract tracing have been permitted to reopen.

But Bridges said he believes "the medicine has become worse than the disease".

"The social and economic costs of people coming out of jobs and we've seen today [Friday] Farmers [department store] lay off 160 people. That's really significant," he told Stuff.

"Secondly, I just look at Australia. Overall, health-wise, they have done as well as us - but they have managed to be much freer economically and keep businesses going and keep workers in jobs."

Bridges has been critical of the Government throughout the pandemic, despite the party calling a halt to campaigning in late March. When a brief extension of New Zealand's level 4 lockdown was announced in April, Bridges was critical and said not enough was being done to prepare the country for level 3.

After a flood of negative comments on social media, Bridges told Magic Talk on Tuesday he stood by the criticism.

"I just think this is going on too long," he said. "I want to get New Zealand working again safely and sooner than later and I feel it's important to stick up for small business people who, in their thousands, are emailing me."