Dr Ashley Bloomfield says he wishes he could 'hit pause' on COVID-19 - but knows it won't be over for years

The COVID-19 pandemic won't be over for several years - and the world will not be the same once it is over, says public health official Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

In his first interview with The Project, the Director-General of Health said as much as he wishes he could "hit pause" on COVID-19, the pandemic is far from over.

"It won't be over any time soon - this pandemic is continuing to evolve across the world and we have to hunker down and realise it'll be several years, not several months, until we come out the other side - and the world won't look the same as it did."

However, he's sure New Zealand will emerge from the health crisis "in a better position".

"We're enormously adaptable as humans."

When asked about his sudden rise to popularity last year, with many hailing the official as a public health hero for his cool, calm and collected leadership, Bloomfield admitted his loved ones kept his feet "firmly on the ground".

"[The popularity] wasn't in my career aspirations during medical school - but neither was being Director-General of Health - I didn't even know it was an option!"

Watch Bloomfield's full interview above.