Coronavirus outbreak: How to protect yourself if it comes to New Zealand

More cases of coronavirus are popping up across the globe with at least five infections in the US and Australia.

Chinese health officials say people can pass on the deadly virus before they show any symptoms.

While there are no confirmed cases in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health says it's closely monitoring the situation.

Here's how people can protect themselves:

Respiratory masks 'the last line of defense'

Masks can help in halting the spread of the virus but health authorities say washing hands is the most important preventative measure.

"We worry about people feeling they're getting more protection from the mask than they really are," said Dr Julie Vaishampayan, public health committee chairwoman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America. 

"Washing your hands and avoiding people who are ill is way more important than wearing a mask," she told The New York Times.

Because of the swift spread of the deadly virus, the demand for face masks has grown as Kiwis fear for their safety.

But Dr Vaishampayan told the NYT masks should be "the last line of defence".

"It's also important to keep your hands away from your face," she said.

Coronavirus outbreak: How to protect yourself if it comes to New Zealand

General tips

The Ministry of Health, via the World Health Organisation, recommends the following -

  • Avoid close contact with people suffering acute respiratory infections
  • Maintain distance from people with symptoms of acute respiratory infection
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing.
Coronavirus outbreak: How to protect yourself if it comes to New Zealand

People should seek medical attention if they are unwell

The Ministry of Health says any travellers arriving in New Zealand who become sick within a month of their arrival are urged to seek medical advice and contact Healthline on 0800 611 116 or see a doctor.

"It is important to mention recent travel to Wuhan and any known contact with someone with severe acute respiratory illness who has been in Wuhan," the ministry says on its website.

Auckland International Airport New Zealand departures area. (Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)
Photo credit: File

Actions that NZ's airports are taking

The Government is not planning on screening passengers incoming from Australia for coronavirus despite travellers here being exposed.

However, Health Minister David is confident the right steps are being taken to prevent a coronavirus outbreak in New Zealand.

Health workers are now screening passengers into the country from China.

The Ministry of Health says advice cards in both traditional and simplified Chinese are now available at international points of entry into NZ.

"These cards provide general advice on symptoms of concern and advice ill travellers to call Healthline - and mention their travel history."

Coronavirus outbreak: How to protect yourself if it comes to New Zealand
Photo credit: Getty


Anyone heading to China is urged to avoid close contact with sick farm animals or wild animals. 

"There's an awful lot we don't yet know," said Eric Toner, a Senior Scientist at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University. "But it is fair to say that live animal markets are a threat not just to the people who work in them, but to public health more generally," he told Business Insider.

What schools are doing

Schools are being encouraged to take a common-sense approach when preparing for the virus.

Principals Federation President Perry Rush says there is information out there.

WUHAN, CHINA - JANUARY 22: People wear face masks as they wait at Hankou Railway Station on January 22, 2020 in Wuhan, China. A new infectious coronavirus known as "2019-nCoV" was discovered in Wuhan last week. Health officials stepped up efforts to contain the spread of the pneumonia-like disease which medical experts confirmed can be passed from human to human. Cases have been reported in other countries including the United States,Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. It is reported that Wuhan will suspend all public transportation at 10 AM on January 23, 2020.  (Photo by Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty

"Making decisions based on fact - that's the most important thing," he told Newshub.

Rush said multiple organisations are working together.

"The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health have both done an excellent job of preparing information for schools."