Coronavirus: Petition calls for airport screening in New Zealand

Over 10,000 people have signed an online petition calling for medical screening at New Zealand's airports amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak that has killed at least 56 people.

The petition, which Auckland resident Kayla Denise started on a mere day ago, has already amassed more than 10,100 signatures as of Sunday evening.

In a message addressed to Airports New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and New Zealand Health Officials, Denise said: "Why wait for it to 'maybe' arrive in New Zealand... it's clear it's beginning to spread somehow".

"It's a new virus still being understood and that could take weeks, maybe months," Denise wrote.

"We can't just keep waiting, hearing updates of where it's spreading too... if it hits us, then what? We may not be a direct flight from Wuhan but people can still travel to New Zealand.

"Why not get the Government, health officials and all those who can make it happen to get screening set up and running to help try prevent more of these cases spreading and help ease those people travelling to our country and us here just waiting [sic]."

Denise also addressed Health Minister Dr David Clark's announcement regarding New Zealand's response to the disease, which includes convening the Interagency Pandemic Group to meet flights from China and stationing health staff at airports to monitor travellers' health.

"Personal opinion - something should [have] been in place weeks ago," Denise said in an update on Sunday afternoon.

"Yes, China has closed down borders etc, but it has already made its way out of the country and cases are growing daily... our people are worth protecting."

Denise also agreed with National MP and Opposition spokesperson for health Michael Woodhouse, who blasted Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter, Dr Clark and the Government for their delayed response to the disease during a media briefing on Sunday.

"I believe National's health spokesperson was right when he said the Government is 'missing in action'," she said.

"We may be at [a] 'low risk' as the Health Boards have shared and advised us to follow the correct hygiene techniques... which is great but it's not enough! We should have something set up for those who are entering New Zealand, information available, screening etc.

"Not all travellers to New Zealand are following our health regional pages, some may not be aware of the virus. We can do more to protect our country.

"Stop the 'she'll be right' attitude and start managing it NOW!"

Dr Clark announced that the Government has convened the Interagency Pandemic Group and health staff will begin meeting all flights from China as of Monday.

"In addition, as previously indicated, on Tuesday I will take a paper to Cabinet which will make the novel coronavirus a notifiable disease," he said.

"I want to assure the public that New Zealand is well prepared for these sorts of situations - we are active and alert, but not alarmed."

The World Health Organisation currently does not recommend border screening for the virus.

There is no vaccine available.