Coronavirus: Ashley Bloomfield behind New Zealand's COVID-19 success, Judith Collins says

The Director-General of Health deserves the applause for New Zealand's success so far in tackling COVID-19, Judith Collins said after criticising Jacinda Ardern's record on delivery.

On Tuesday, the National leader called for the Labour leader to "front up with some policies" for the upcoming election and stop "hiding" behind COVID-19.

Labour has put out a "five-point plan" for economic recovery and Ardern has said her main focus has been on New Zealand's COVID-19 recovery. On Monday, she said the response to the pandemic would "pre-determine a lot of what we debate this election", but promised more policy would soon be rolled out. 

Speaking to The AM Show on Wednesday, Collins, the Leader of the Opposition, said Ardern "just does a lot of slogans". She pointed to the likes of KiwiBuild's 100,000 homes as an example of something Ardern promised and then didn't deliver on.

The KiwiBuild programme was meant to see 10,000 homes built by June 2021. But it struggled to gain momentum and was "reset" in September last year, not having reached its target. 

Despite that, 3091 state homes have been built since June 2018 and the Government announced a $500 million investment last week into upgrading 1500 older state houses.

The AM Show host Duncan Garner said that "[Ardern] has probably delivered a pretty good result on COVID". 

New Zealand only has 22 active COVID-19 cases - all in managed isolation or quarantine facilities - and hasn't seen community transmission in more than three months. 

That success has been largely attributed to the country's decision to move quickly into a hard lockdown, which lasted nearly two months. After containing the virus, all restrictions, excluding those at the border, have been removed, allowing freedom of movement and businesses to begin trading again. 

Collins responded to Garner by saying that New Zealand's Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield was behind our successful response. 

"[Ardern] had a very good Director-General of Health, who actually did the job, and that's a good thing she had the right person in the job," the National leader said.

But Collins did praise Ardern as a "very good communicator". 

"She understood absolutely that New Zealanders have a zero tolerance to COVID-19, as do I." 

The Prime Minister on Monday said that while Labour would roll out new policy, "it is clear that the fiscal position we as New Zealand finds itself in is tight". 

"We have had to include additional borrowing for the likes of the wage subsidy which is the right thing to do, but we also have to maintain careful fiscal management and that will be part of our thinking for any future policies."

The Government has paid out about $13 billion through its wage subsidy scheme, with more than 1.7 million jobs being supported since March. 

While Collins may say Dr Bloomfield is responsible for our COVID programme, Ardern's Labour Party has seen its support rise during the pandemic. In February, Labour sat on 42.5 percent in the Newshub-Reid Research poll, and was at 60.9 percent in the poll last week. National, however, has had its own turmoil during that time, driving its polling down.

Ardern's leadership during the crisis has been internationally applauded. Just last week she topped a list of the world's most eloquent leaders because of her "empathetic leadership style".

"She challenges the common perception that emotional communication shows weakness, instead choosing to approach the public with softer touch. She has a measured and authoritative sincerity about her - she is kind and compassionate, without shying away from tough issues," British professional development company Development Academy said.