Coronavirus: Jacinda Ardern slams 'irresponsible' headlines for causing 'unnecessary anxiety'

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has slammed "irresponsible" reporting on the arrival of the coronavirus COVID-19 in New Zealand.

New Zealand's first case was confirmed on Friday afternoon in a 60-year-old person who arrived on a flight from Iran and Bali on Tuesday. They remain the only confirmed case of the virus in New Zealand.

COVID-19 has infected more than 83,000 people worldwide, and killed nearly 3000. 

Ardern on Saturday said New Zealand's response so far has been "textbook".

"My message to the general public - in my view, some of the headlines  we've seen have been irresponsible. Some of those headlines have caused unnecessary anxiety for the public," she said.

Each morning Healthline was experiencing a "spike in calls" coinciding with people's opening up of their morning newspapers, she said.

"My call is to those not necessarily our journalists, but those who write the headlines, make sure that we keep reporting factual information to the public. That's so key right now. 

"The clear message I want to send is New Zealand is good at these kinds of events and situations. Our public health officials are world-class. Our hospital systems are well-prepared."

Health officials have contacted not just those sitting near the infected patient on Tuesday's Emirates flight, she said, but others on the plane - even though it was unnecessary.

"All those who need to be contacted have been contacted. In fact, we're going a step further and Healthline is proactively contacting those who have no need to be concerned just to give reassuring messages and information to those extra individuals."

Jacinda Ardern.
Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Newshub.

She said there was no need to start panic-buying goods at supermarkets. Queues were snaking out the doors of several Pak'nSaves across Auckland on Friday night, and crowds were reportedly waiting when the doors opened this morning in Royal Oak.

"If you need a bottle of milk, go to the supermarket. If you don't, don't. Continue on as you would regardless." 

The patient in Auckland City Hospital is in a stable condition and improving, Ardern said.