David Clark rejects idea Government ministers were gagged following COVID-19 document dump

The Health Minister has rejected the idea Government ministers were gagged from speaking to the media following the release of COVID-19 documents on Friday.

At a press conference on Sunday morning where he announced increases to Pharmac's funding, Dr David Clark said he was fronting media and answering questions on the documents "right now" and he'd also answered additional questions in interviews on Saturday.

The gagging accusations follow a leaked internal email sent to all ministers from the Prime Minister's office instructing them not to speak to the media about Friday afternoon's document dump.

It directs that ministers instead respond with brief written comments that must be signed off by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. 

"I'm comfortable and confident talking about the release of materials [about] the advice that the Government had received. As a Government, we've been transparent about the decisions we've made," Dr Clark said.

He also dismissed the idea the Government was arrogant because it felt it didn't need to defend its response to the pandemic.

"I think ultimately when it comes to that advice [that was released in the documents], that is the advice from officials and why they gave particular bits of advice at different times.

"The more general point I'd make is what that history of documents show - if you go through the significant volume of material - firstly was that there was a huge amount of thinking going on, secondly that that thinking was evolving very rapidly."

Dr Clark said he didn't receive the leaked email and only heard about it once the media reported it.

National Party health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse told RNZ that directing ministers not to take part in interviews "makes a mockery" of their claim to be open and transparent and it shows a "cynical disregard" for the process.

"The idea that ministers wouldn't front for a massive amount of information being released is just incredible to me," he said.