Simon Bridges has the "luxury" of not "bearing the consequences of a wrong move" on COVID-19, unlike the Government, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said during question time in Parliament.
Ardern snapped back at the Opposition leader after he questioned the Government's reluctance to shift New Zealand out of alert level 3 early after the Ministry of Health reported two consecutive days of no new cases.
Bridges said rather than setting a fixed alert level timeline, the Prime Minister should "make new decisions every single day about how she can safely get more businesses back to business, saving jobs and livelihoods in this country".
"I'd love to see the member's evidence that's not exactly what we're doing," Ardern retorted. "We make decisions every day to look after people's lives and their livelihoods.
"What the member needs to remember is that we cannot get ahead of ourselves. We need to lock in all of the results we've had to date.
"We do have cycles of transmission with this virus we have to take into account and we are listening to the evidence, the research - the best available advice to make decisions which is in the best interest of our economy, as well."
The Government will announce next Monday if the time is right to shift the country into alert level 2, and Bridges said Ardern's response suggests she "may well bring forward the decision... and that it could in fact be made this week".
Ardern reminded Bridges that the Government wants to complete a cycle of transmission before it considers shifting out of alert level 3.
"Making a decision today based on a number today is a reflection of level 4 - not about where we are right now," she told the National Party leader.
"That member may have the luxury of sitting on that side of the House not bearing the consequences of a wrong move, but we do not. We have to factor in the livelihoods of every New Zealander."
Bridges also challenged the Prime Minister on the economic impact of keeping the nation under strict alert level 3 rules for another week while in Australia big industries like retail are opening up in some parts of the country.
He quoted a business owner in New Zealand that wrote to him explaining how their business in Australia had continued to bring in revenue during March while their New Zealand business brought in nothing.
"I don't think the Government has any idea how bad things are going to get over here," Bridges quoted the business owner as saying.
Ardern said she hoped the business owner had taken advantage of the Government's financial solutions, such as the wage subsidy scheme, which has paid out more than $10 billion to more than a million New Zealanders.
Treasury estimates an additional 400,000 workers returned to work under alert level 3, but Bridges referred to ANZ economists who have said New Zealand's economy could shrink by 10 percent this year while Australia's will fall by less than 5 percent.
"I've seen a range of estimates," Ardern said. "Ultimately though, what will be important are the final results coming out of both New Zealand and Australia. You'll understand why my focus is on getting the New Zealand response right."
She said the health response, if it's successful, is the "best way we can support our economy".
"I've been in fairly frequent dialogue with the leadership in Australia and there are a lot of similarities with our approach. Each of us are now looking at removing restrictions and the phased approach to doing that."
The Prime Minister was invited to a video conference meeting on Tuesday with Australia's national Cabinet, which comprises her counterpart Scott Morrison, and all state and territory premiers and chief ministers.
A topic of discussion is the potential trans-Tasman travel 'bubble' proposed by Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, which if agreed upon, could help bring some revenue back for New Zealand's suffering tourism industry.