Official Urging People to 'Spread Their Legs' During Pandemic Prompts Hilarious Reactions

New Zealand's COVID-19 response minister accidentally made a sexually suggestive remark during a press conference Sunday, urging citizens to socially distance when they they get outside and "spread their legs" – and the comment sparked a wave of hilarious reactions online.

"It is a challenge for people in high-density areas to get outside and spread their legs when they are surrounded by other people," minister Chris Hipkins said during the conference.

poor one out for @chrishipkins this evening pic.twitter.com/fvZYMeJ5Oz

— Aimee (@aimee_nz) August 22, 2021

The brief slip-of-the-tongue prompted Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, the country's director of general health who was standing next to Hipkins, to raise his eyebrows as the minister continued the address. When Hipkins later realized his mistake, he laughed and said he would go and "stretch his legs" – the phrase he actually meant to say – and added that the media "would all have fun with him later."

He was right.

Chris Hipkins
Minister for COVID-19 Response Chris Hipkins speaks to media during a post cabinet press conference at Parliament on June 28, 2021 in Wellington, New Zealand. Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Shortly after the health minister's speech, New Zealanders took to Twitter to poke fun of the slip-up, using the hashtag #spreadyourlegs and calling on fellow citizens to "spread your legs, and save lives."

I love this country #SpreadYourLegsNZ #spreadyourlegs pic.twitter.com/Qn73KaUuLA

— Caryn 🌻 (@CarynDoesntCare) August 22, 2021

People across Aotearoa, just following the medical advice from the govt.#COVID19 #Covid19nz #SpreadYourLegs pic.twitter.com/ozOR5dHZEg

— Phid McAwesome He/Him/Man thing (@PhidMcAwesome) August 22, 2021

Scores of people online used the social media platform to post images of themselves spreading their legs, writing captions like "Following ministry of health advice today and getting out to #SpreadYourLegs. Us kiwis are a compliant lot."

Following ministry of health advice today and getting out to #SpreadYourLegs. Us kiwis are a compliant lot. #chrishipkins #SpreadYourLegsNZ pic.twitter.com/KHHBVPyo46

— sean murphy (@at0nal) August 22, 2021

Just out here listening to my government pic.twitter.com/jhdaNF5B77

— Mr Ma'i Suka (@patityrell) August 22, 2021

Others questioned whether or not they were doing the government's order properly.

Am I doing this right?#SpreadYourLegs pic.twitter.com/Rx1bAoz1Tt

— Anna Sutherland (@annaksutherland) August 23, 2021

Another user poked fun at the sexually suggestive phrase, writing "As a country, we are never going to be able to take the phrase 'super spreader' seriously ever again, are we?"

Others pointed out that it gave new meaning to the government's pandemic catch phrase "go hard, go early".

As a country we are never going to be able to take the phrase "super spreader" seriously ever again, are we? #spreadyourlegs

— K R Kelly (@ongenocide) August 22, 2021

Do the right thing folks: stay local when you have the urge to …#SpreadYourLegs pic.twitter.com/cyb52u15K3

— Scottie - I’m fully vacinated (@Scotty_Lockdown) August 22, 2021

Another user wrote on Twitter that the comment was "exactly the comic relief" that New Zealand needed to hear as the remains under lockdown to combat the spread of the virus.

Off to spread my legs safely in public as indicated by Chris Hipkins. Have you spread your legs today? #SpreadYourLegsNZ #NZHellhole pic.twitter.com/2KkDpoDljK

— Luis 'living in #NZHellhole' (@OldNewZealand) August 22, 2021

On Monday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said lockdowns will continue in some places until the end of August, after the country reported 35 new local infections of the fast-spreading Delta variant. Arden said the outbreak will likely peak in the coming days.

"We do need more information. We need more certainty. We don't want to take any risks with delta," Ardern said, according to the Associated Press. "If the world has taught us anything, it is to be cautious with this variant of COVID-19."

The strict lockdown means most people must remain at home, leaving only to buy groceries or medicine, or to exercise. New Zealand has so far recorded low vaccination rates, with only about 20 percent of the country full vaccinated by Monday.