'Give her a break': Willis defends PM's maskless group photo

Source: 1News

National's Nicola Willis is defending a photo of the prime minister with Youth Parliament members on Tuesday without a mask on.

A maskless Jacinda Ardern, Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro and others on a staircase in the Beehive with youth MPs.

Jacinda Ardern posted a series of photos on social media on Tuesday of her day spent with Youth Parliament members.

The first photo was of Ardern, Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro and others on a staircase in the Beehive with the Youth Parliament participants.

Only one person in the photo can visibly be seen wearing a mask, although many others appear to be holding theirs in their hands. Two other photos in the social media posts show the prime minister and Youth Parliament members wearing masks.

As New Zealand records thousands of daily Covid-19 cases it is Ardern's lack of a mask in the first photo which has drawn criticism from the public and the likes of epidemiologist Michael Baker, former prime minister Helen Clark and former deputy prime minister Winston Peters.

Baker told Newshub he was "quite shocked" by the photo in question and it was a "missed opportunity to promote mask-use".

Meanwhile, Clark and Peters took to Twitter, saying it was "shocking" and "hypocrisy", respectively.

In response to another critical tweet, Clark replied: "Indeed shocking to see the unmasked Youth Parliament. What on earth are they thinking. NZ is in the middle of a pandemic surge."

Peters tweeted:

However, National's deputy leader leapt to the prime minister's defence on Breakfast on Wednesday.

"No, look, she just took off the mask for the photo and can we give her a break for that?" Willis asked.

"Who among us hasn't taken their mask off for a photo? I'm sure that just like me and all the others in the photo she put the mask on to walk around Parliament.

"I think we all need to be a bit more relaxed about that."

A spokesperson for the prime minister told Newshub Ardern had been wearing a mask for the rest of the day, but took it off briefly for the group photo at the photographer's request.

In March, National Party leader Christopher Luxon admitted he shouldn't have been hugging and shaking hands with people at his State of the National speech.