Coronavirus: Border controls will let NZ 'watch the rest of the world burn' - expert

Travel restrictions on people entering New Zealand are likely to last for months, perhaps even until Christmas, one expert says.

The Government on Saturday announced tough new measures to prevent the coronavirus outbreak establishing itself on our shores, requiring everyone coming in - even citizens and residents - to go into self-isolation for two weeks (except people arriving from the Pacific Islands).

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday she'll be seeking the power to deport any foreigners who don't comply.

"I don't think it will come to that," she told The AM Show.

The restrictions currently only last until March 31, when they will be reviewed. University of Auckland microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles told The AM Show there's no doubt it will be extended.

"It will have to go on for as long as other countries have uncontrollable disease," she said, adding they might still be in place by Christmas.

"We are in this for the long-haul - months, possibly a year or two."

New Zealand has so far managed to prevent person-to-person transmission, with all eight confirmed cases having been brought in by people travelling from overseas. Dr Wiles says the aim is to keep it this way - which will require the tough rules to be in place for potentially a long time. 

"If we can stop that and make sure we don't have the disease here, we will be able to live life as relatively normal while we watch the rest of the world burn."

Siouxise Wiles.
Siouxise Wiles. Photo credit: The AM Show

Australia followed New Zealand's lead on Sunday, implementing similar restrictions. 

"If people realise that's good practice and follow us, that's great," said Dr Wiles. "I guess we and Australia can do that because we're islands."

Dr Wiles says more cases should be expected to crop up over the next two weeks, before - assuming there's no person-to-person transmission - they start falling.

"What we're trying to do is stop any new cases coming into New Zealand. We should expect more over the next couple of weeks, because we know the incubation period is about two weeks, and we didn't bring these measures in two weeks ago."

Anyone who arrived in the past two weeks should ideally be self-isolating, she said, regardless of how they feel. National MP Chris Bishop arrived in New Zealand on Saturday evening after spending a day in Australia, and is following Healthline's advice to go into isolation, despite the rules only kicking in at 1am on Monday.

"After I returned home last night I have confined myself to our house in Petone. I have no symptoms and am feeling totally fine," Bishop wrote in a Facebook post.

"My number one priority is serving the people of the Hutt Valley, it will just have to be in a different way for the next two weeks."

Green MP Chloe Swarbrick arrived on Sunday, and also put herself into isolation. 

"These protocols were designed to keep everyone healthy. I do not have any symptoms, but I am registering my whereabouts with the Ministry of Health and will be following advice."

It's been a much harder battle for other countries to control the virus, including Italy, which has just recorded 368 deaths in a single day.

"It's going to rise every day. They didn't act fast enough," said Dr Wiles. "China has shown us what we need to do to bring this under control. The cases they're seeing now are ones that are coming in from outside of China."