Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield came into close contact with person who visited location of interest

Newshub can reveal Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield came into close contact with someone who'd been at the Te Papa exhibition at the same time as the Australian COVID-19 case. 

Wellington snapped into action on Wednesday after it was revealed a COVID-positive traveller from Sydney visited last weekend, with 16 locations of interest announced, including Te Papa, Rydges Hotel, the flights from Australia and many restaurants. 

Testing stations in Wellington have been straining with the onslaught. They've been so overrun that sick people have been turned away and told to call Healthline. The problem is, it's overrun too. 

"I couldn't get through to Healthline so that was pretty difficult," one person told Newshub. 

Even a key location of interest - Jack Hackett's Irish Pub - has been struggling to get through.

"I've been trying to get hold of Healthline, which hasn't been very easy," Jack Hackett's bar manager Cushla Mathie told Newshub. 

And that's not the worst of it. The Ministry of Health failed to let the pub know the COVID case had hung out there most of Saturday night, so they opened at 7am on Wednesday morning for the football. 

"It would've been nice to have known a couple of hours beforehand to save us from opening, but you know, we're doing what we can now," Mathie said. 

Dr Bloomfield says officials need to assess the risk. 

"I didn't personally know, but the team at regional public health had elicited that information but you'll understand there is a process of then looking at the information to assess what the risk is," he told reporters. 

At around 8.30pm on Tuesday night the Director-General of Health told COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins about the case and 10 hours later the public was told at 6:13am. It then took nearly three hours - 8:54am - before the first six of 15 locations of interest were revealed, allowing the busy Wellington morning commute to take place.

"I don't know why they waited until after people got to work and therefore possibly compromised the health of their work mates," said National leader Judith Collins. 

Hipkins said officials did their best. 

"Speed is of the essence and so it is a little bit patchy but we get information out as quickly as we possibly can."

It was left to businesses like Floriditas Café to post on social media that they were locations of interest before the Ministry of Health got its act together and told people.

"The fact that private businesses were alerting people before the Minister of Health got onto it, I think is frankly disgraceful," said ACT leader David Seymour. 

Newshub can reveal because the Ministry of Health took so long to reveal those hotspots, even Dr Bloomfield himself came into close contact with someone who'd been at the Te Papa exhibition at the same time as the New South Wales case. 

Newshub also understands another close contact went to an event on Tuesday night attended by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, Collins, ACT leader David Seymour and Green MP Chloe Swarbrick.  

Hipkins denies the response was slow.  

"I don't think it would be fair to characterise that as sluggish," he said. 

The Government is also accused of being too sluggish to pause the travel bubble with New South Wales, where the COVID-19 case came from.

"Once it was clear that there was an outbreak in Sydney involving the Delta variant and once there were obviously a few cases which weren't easy to account for the bubble should've been closed," Auckland University professor of medicine Des Gorman told Newshub. 

Even now that it is closed, the Prime Minister is undeterred. She's still planning to travel to Australia in 12 days' time. 

"I will never do anything that I consider to be irresponsible or unsafe," she said. "That's why we continue to take it under advisement."