Coronavirus outbreak: Government extends travel restrictions from China

New Zealand will continue to ban any foreign nationals who have travelled from or through China from entering our country. 

The restrictions were announced at the start of February as a temporary precaution to the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus, which has infected more than 66,000 worldwide and killed at least 1500 after originating in Wuhan, China.

On Saturday, New Zealand's Health Minister Dr David Clark announced the restrictions would continue for a further eight days, with the position to be reviewed every 48 hours.

The restrictions do not apply to New Zealand citizens, permanent residents or their immediate family. They are asked to self-isolate for 14 days, however. 

"The health advice remains consistent - we must take a precautionary approach, and that is why the travel restrictions will continue in the short term," Dr Clark says.

"At every step our response to the coronavirus has been based on the best available science and health advice.

 "Our border response is in line with Australia, the US and a range of other countries. It is a responsible approach to assist international efforts to contain this disease, and to protect New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

 "Imposing travel restrictions is not a decision that was taken lightly, but in the end this is a matter of public health."

The travel restrictions, however, have frustrated the Chinese Government. Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand Wu Xi wrote in an opinion piece published by Newshub that China's Government has gone to extensive lengths to minimise the spread of the disease, and travel restrictions were not yet recommended by the World Health Organisation, despite a global health emergency being declared.

"Recent data suggests the extent of efforts to restrict travel to and from China is not necessary. We have already seen major disruption to trade, tourism and education exchanges between China and NZ since the travel restrictions were imposed," the ambassador said.

"Financial impacts have been felt across industries, and people to people exchanges have effectively stopped. 

"The travel restrictions also gave grounds to an increase in racist and xenophobic behaviour, which is deeply regrettable."

She called the travel restrictions to be lifted "as early as possible".

New Zealand is yet to have a confirmed case of the coronavirus within our borders, but two Kiwis have been diagnosed with the illness - for which there is not yet a vaccine - in Japan. Last week, Healthline revealed 385 people in New Zealand were self-isolating for the coronavirus.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) was first informed of cases of the virus in Wuhan on December 31. It was identified as a coronavirus on January 7 and can spread through human-to-human transmission. There is little known about it but has revived fears of the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003 which killed almost 800 people.

"Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death," the WHO says.

"Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing."