Health Minister David Clark is not apologising after backlash over his treatment of Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
The Government has been grappling with a quarantine testing botch-up, and the Health Minister on Wednesday pointed blame at Dr Bloomfield as they stood right next to each other.
Newshub footage of the moment Dr Bloomfield was thrown under the bus sparked a flurry of reactions online, with National MPs sharing the video on Facebook with captions "Ouch" and "So painful to watch!"
But the Health Minister is standing by his comments.
"What happened yesterday in terms of what was said was not new information," he told reporters on Thursday. "I take the ministerial responsibility for the system. It has been acknowledged there have been failures in the system and we're both interested in fixing them."
The Director-General of Health on Wednesday could not rule out cases of COVID-19 being back in the community after the Ministry of Health failed to test hundreds of people before releasing them from quarantine.
The Health Minister said Dr Bloomfield had taken responsibility for it.
"The Director-General has accepted that the protocol wasn't being followed. He has accepted responsibility for that," Dr Clark said as Dr Bloomfield stood behind him. "The Director-General has acknowledged that the system didn't deliver here."
The Newshub footage of the interaction was published on Twitter by Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien and has been viewed more than 114,000 times.
Political commentators have been scathing. But Dr Clark insisted he has a good working relationship with Dr Bloomfield.
"We have a close working relationship, we talk most days often several times a day, and I think Dr Bloomfield would describe our working relationship the same way."
"I continue to work really closely with and support the minister in his work," he said on Thursday. "I just remain focused as I have since the start of this doing the best possible job I can and we continue to remain focused on keeping New Zealanders safe."
In the wake of the outrage, a fundraiser was also set up to buy Dr Bloomfield flowers - and Dr Clark said he would be happy to chip in.
"I would be very happy to buy Dr Bloomfield some flowers; I have to say, just about on any day. He is an exceptional public servant... We have a professional working relationship."
Dr Bloomfield said he hasn't received any flowers yet and urged Kiwis to spend their money elsewhere.
"I haven't received any flowers," he said. "I'd love if people have money they wish to put to a good cause then they donate it to a local charity."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also insisted the pair have a good relationship.
"They are absolutely fine, they absolutely are," she The Rock radio station on Thursday. "Both of them have been... both of them feel like they've both been really let down."
National's health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said Dr Bloomfield has been treated "appallingly".
"This is a hardworking public servant who by and large has worked tremendously well through a difficult period, and for him to be treated the way he was yesterday is absolutely appalling," he told reporters.
"I had been in the select committee for an hour and a half with this pair and the body language at that meeting was palpable. It's quite clear that the relationship between the two of them has broken down."
The Ministry of Health announced three new cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand on Thursday - all in managed self-isolation. It brings the total number of active coronavirus cases in New Zealand to 13.