Coronavirus: New Zealand health officials maintain risk to New Zealanders low

The coronavirus is spreading, but New Zealand's health officials maintain the risk to Kiwis is low. 

Australia on Saturday confirmed its first case, with four other patients there being tested. The virus has already made its way to Europe, and two people have tested positive in the United States.

"The first confirmed positive case has now been detected in Australia," said Brendan Murphy, Australia's chief medical officer.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we had other confirmed cases."

A Chinese man in his 50s is being held under isolation in Melbourne Hospital, with five others in New South Wales also being tested. 

New Zealand's Ministry of Health says the risk to Aotearoa is low, but Life Pharmacy Dunedin isn't taking any chances. It has posted on its Facebook page about a new order of masks it's got in, saying "with the influx of Chinese tourists for the new year, we wanted to be prepared to protect our community".

Other pharmacies have also reported selling out of masks, with one worker telling Newshub every second person they'd served was buying one of these. 

But despite some fearing the virus could arrive here, the Ministry of Health hasn't changed its stance - there are still no plans to screen passengers entering the country.

The death toll in China has climbed to 41, with almost 1300 others there now infected. In Wuhan, social media videos show suspected patients collapsing in the streets with others being transported in sealed containers. 

The rapid spread of the virus is sparking panic at hospitals, prompting a rapid response from China's government. It has sent 40 military doctors to Wuhan to help cope with demand, and believe it or not, in just over a week, one patch of dirt will be a brand new state hospital. A thousand beds, built especially for coronavirus patients. 

Twelve cities surrounding Wuhan have now been placed into lockdown, forcing 36 million people to stay put during the Chinese New Year. Major tourist attractions across the country have also been closed, including temples, Shanghai Disney Land and parts of the Great Wall. 

The coronavirus has already spread through Asia to South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore. Cases have now presented in Australia, France and the US, where a second person tested positive in Chicago. 

Dr Allison Arwady, Chicago public health commissioner said: "The patient is a woman in her 60s. Most importantly, I'm pleased to report that she is clinically doing well, and is in stable condition."

Many countries are now screening passengers arriving from China at their borders. But the problem with that is the virus only presents its symptoms days after a person is infected.

"You're not going to pick up if they have a temperature when they arrive in a country, it's only a few days or a week later and so it makes it hard to actually pick up individuals who are ill and so then you're requiring them to self-report," said Prof Devi Sridhar from Edinburgh University.

Still dealing with the trauma of its measles epidemic, Samoa is now requiring all visitors to get medical clearance at least three days before travelling there.