Coronavirus: Health Minister defends health officials' Tool moshpit claims

The Health Minister has hit back at criticism health officials are downplaying the threat of COVID-19 transmission at last week's Tool concert.

On Friday, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield revealed one of New Zealand's four confirmed patients attended the legendary metal band's show at Auckland's Spark Arena on February 28.

He was in the general admission standing area near the front - close to, if not in, the moshpit. 

But Dr Bloomfield said the chance of the deadly disease being passed on to others was low

His description of a moshpit as 'casual' rather than 'close contact' however bemused rock fans, who know moshpits can be a heaving mess of sweat, saliva and in some cases, even blood. 

"I don't think this doctor understands GA at a Tool concert," Kiwi documentary maker and massive Tool fan David Farrier tweeted. 

David Clark told Newshub Nation the experts know what they're talking about.

"The public health officials are experts in this area. This is what they have trained to do," he assured host Simon Shepherd.

"It's why we have a comprehensive and long-standing pandemic plan in place. What happens is the public health officials make an assessment of how close people have been, and what kind of contact they've been in. 

"You've got to remember this disease spreads by coughing, by big droplets-  you've actually got to be very close to somebody for an extended period of time."

Shepherd pointed out being in a Tool moshpit for two hours might fit that definition, but Dr Clark dismissed his concerns.

He said "ultimately" if anyone was infected, we're relying on them to self-isolate.

"This is what public health officials worldwide know works. When people have good information about the likely symptoms... it's really important that you do those things you'd do for the cold or flu anyway - you self-isolate, you concentrate on washing your hands. Talk to your GP, give them a call and make a plan."

The fan's believed to have caught the virus in Italy, which has the fourth-highest number of cases in the world. They didn't go into self-isolation on arrival back in New Zealand, as we hadn't at that stage implemented travel restrictions or advice on people returning from Italy.

Dr Clark said when he and his wife arrived back in New Zealand, Italy - population 60 million - had only reported 124 cases. The UK had already put in restrictions, but New Zealand didn't until March 2 - almost a week after the couple arrived home.

Dr Clark rejected suggestions New Zealand has been too slow to react. 

"No, we acted early and decisively.. That's why we're doing so much better than most of the countries we like to compare ourselves to. We've got some of the strictest requirements in place of any country in the world and we acted early and decisively, and I think that is why we've only got four cases at this stage... in Australia for example, they've got 60, Germany's had another 134 overnight. We've acted early and that's bought us time." 

With "sporadic" cases expected to crop up even if we keep the virus at bay, Dr Clark said Kiwis are going to have to get used to being "more health-conscious than they historically have been probably".

"Do stay at home. Don't go to public events, don't go to work. Make sure if you're coughing, you're coughing into your elbow... wash your hands regularly."