Coronavirus: Ministry of Health urges calm over virus being airborne

The Ministry of Health is urging the public to be calm after it was announced the coronavirus is an airborne disease.

It was announced on Saturday (local time) by a Shanghai official that the coronavirus can spread via aerosol transmission - meaning it can drift through the air for an extended period of time and cause infection if breathed in.

The ministry's director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the disease being airborne isn't something to be nervous about.

"I think the way it's been reported is it's a worrying new development. In fact, aerosol spread of respiratory viruses is well known, it's well described," Dr Bloomfield said.

Respiratory viruses spread three ways - through direct contact, droplets settling on surfaces and aerosol transmission. The latter is one of the main ways they infect people.

"What's not known is the relative importance of that method of spread [aerosol transmission] compared with direct coughing or sneezing."

That is why the Ministry of Health recommends "very good" hand hygiene and wearing a face mask if needed.

Anyone who believes they have coronavirus symptoms should stay home and contact Healthline, who is able to assist people that are in self-isolation.

Over 400 people have registered as self-isolating in New Zealand since Friday when the service began.

People in self-isolation who contact them are then called back regularly, so Healthline can check their welfare.

There are still no suspected or confirmed coronavirus cases in New Zealand.

The Ministry of Health recommends people in self-isolation register themselves with Healthline by calling 0800 358 5453 - a number dedicated to health-related calls about coronavirus.

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