Lockdown might be over, but Chris Hipkins is yet to 'spread' his legs

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says there was no spreading of the legs for him on Auckland's first night out of lockdown. 

The city moved to the 'red' level of the new traffic light system on Friday, where bars and restaurants reopened to patrons for the first time in months. 

Some Aucklanders decided to let off pent-up steam - Twitter users saying they'd "never seen Auckland this drunk" - but Hipkins didn't join them.

"Unfortunately not. A very quiet night at home for me," he told Newshub Nation on Saturday morning, wearing a festive hat. "There was no stretching or spreading involved." 

Hipkins had the country in stitches back in August, during the early days of the Delta outbreak, when he said at a press conference it would be a "challenge for people in high-density areas to get outside and spread their legs when they are surrounded by other people". 

The gaffe amused Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield, whose eyebrows immediately shot up. Hipkins saw the funny side, joking the media "would all have fun with him later".

In September, Hipkins was seen drinking from a mug commemorating the memorable phrase, reading "spread your legs, not the virus". 

"At least that was what was going viral at the time and not COVID-19," he told Newshub Nation, appearing to briefly forget just why he was talking to the nation in the first place. 

Under the traffic light system, people who haven't been vaccinated and got their My Vaccine Pass will be barred from entering a number of venues. Hipkins said parents concerned they might have to stay up late to check Santa's pass this Christmas need not worry. 

"I have some very good news - I have here a copy of Santa's My Vaccine Pass, so I can say parents won't need to verify that. They can see now Santa's got his pass, it's on his way to him. 

"Santa will be able to come down the chimney without any concerns." 

Many others who got their vaccinations overseas have struggled to get their passes, the Ministry of Health having to issue 70,000 temporary exemptions while they sort through the backlog

Hipkins said it was highly unlikely Santa would have been exposed to the virus anyway. 

"Very secure bubble there at the North Pole, no COVID-19… it's very safe." 

As for summer, he's hoping to spend it at the beach. Prime Minister Ardern declined to appear on the show, the last for 2021. Hipkins said he didn't know where she is.

"Contrary to popular demand, I haven't got her microchipped."

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