Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern insists the relationship between Health Minister David Clark and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield is "absolutely fine".
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 Prime Minister is adamant there is no bad blood.
"They are absolutely fine, they absolutely are," she told radio station The Rock on Thursday. "Actually, both of them have been... both of them feel like they've both been really let down."
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... The Director-General has acknowledged that the system didn't deliver here."
The Prime Minister said backlash against Dr Clark is not "particularly fair" and repeated that the Health Minister and Director-General "get on well".
Left-leaning political commentator Chris Trotter told The AM Show the way Dr Clark treated Dr Bloomfield was "shameful" and said he should not be Health Minister.
"I thought the behaviour of David Clark in reaction to Ashley Bloomfield was just shameful, absolutely shameful. I am sorry Jacinda, but if you let that stand for the next 24 hours, then it's going to come back on you, because a person like that should not be in the job."
Right-leaning commentator Trish Sherson was also critical of Dr Clark.
"I know from sources who were close to that emergency response, not only was he not physically in Wellington, he was absolutely invisible and absent to that team, not even mentioned in daily reports, totally away from it," she said.
"He botches that up shockingly, doesn't get the sack, comes back, then gets put back in charge of this. It is a failure of the most ridiculous proportions."
The Health Minister came under fire during the alert level 4 lockdown for breaching the rules by going mountain biking and driving 20km to the beach for a walk with his family when Kiwis weren't allowed to drive for recreation.
Newshub also revealed he continued moving house during alert level 4 lockdown, shifting boxes when the rest of New Zealand was told they were not allowed.
The Prime Minister demoted Dr Clark to the bottom of her Cabinet rankings and stripped him of his Associate Finance portfolio, and said she would have sacked him "under normal conditions".
In the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll, voters were asked whether Dr Clark should remain Health Minister. More than half - 56.8 percent - said 'no', with only 35.7 percent saying 'yes'.