Coronavirus: China travel ban 'right thing to do' - health expert

A health expert says the Government's ban on travellers arriving in New Zealand from China is the right thing to do.

The temporary ban comes into effect on Monday and affects any foreign travellers coming from or transiting through mainland China. 

New Zealand citizens and permanent residents returning to New Zealand will still be able to enter the country, as well as their immediate family members. However, they will be required to be self-isolated for 14 days upon arrival.

Michael Baker, Otago University Professor of Public Health, says although the plan is not foolproof, it is necessary to stop the virus' spread. 

"There are people who will be arriving in New Zealand with no symptoms who may not necessarily home quarantine perfectly, but at the same time the ban on people coming from China is the right thing to do," he told Newshub.

The move comes as countries around the world scramble to contain the spread of coronavirus, which has so far claimed more than 300 lives.

On Sunday, a 44-year-old man in the Philippines became the first person to die from the virus outside of China.

In China, more than 14,000 cases of the virus have been confirmed.

"It's spreading very rapidly in cities across China but we don't know exactly how serious this infection is yet," Baker says.

He says if the virus spread to this part of the world, it could have serious consequences, particularly in the Pacific. 

"If the virus arrived somewhere like Samoa, which is just getting over a terrible measles epidemic, it would have severe effects."

Over the weekend, Air New Zealand announced it would be suspending its Auckland-Shanghai service until March 29.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade also raised its travel advice to Kiwis, classifying mainland China as "Do not travel", the highest level.

Bans preventing those travelling from China will be in effect for up to 14 days, and will be reviewed every 48 hours.