Coronavirus: Microbiologist says NZ's pandemic plan 'working well', urges everyone to chill

A Kiwi microbiologist has heaped praise on officials' handling of New Zealand's first confirmed case of COVID-19.

The coronavirus made landfall on Wednesday when a 60-year-old New Zealand citizen arrived aboard an Emirates flight. Their family called Healthline, and by Friday they were in Auckland City Hospital. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Saturday said they were in a stable but improving condition.

National Party health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse lashed out on Saturday, saying they'd been contacted by a person on the flight claiming they'd been told there was nothing to worry about, despite developing a cough, as long as their temperature remained under 38C.

"The advice he has received is inconsistent and his causing him more stress and anxiety than is necessary," he says.

"[Health Minister David Clark] should be providing consistent public reassurance to prevent panic - it can no longer just be left to officials."

The Ministry of Health has proactively contacted not just those sitting close to the infected patient, but others on the flight to assure them there's nothing to be concerned about, Ardern said on Saturday. 

She also told people to stop panic-buying goods like bottled water and toilet paper, as there is no evidence yet of any transmission of the virus in the community.

University of Auckland microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles told Newshub stocking up is totally unnecessary.

"Absolutely not warranted at this stage. The average person is no more at risk of picking up this virus than they were."

She says if a case arises where the origin of the virus is unknown, then there will be cause for concern - as is happening in South Korea, the US and Iran. 

"They're now starting to see transmission in the community - this is when a person is diagnosed and they don't know where they got it from, they haven't travelled to a particular place that is a hotspot."

Siouxsie Wiles
Siouxsie Wiles. Photo credit: Newshub.

She says the traceable origins of the first domestic case - Iran, which has the highest number of cases outside of east Asia - made it less of a concern. 

"This is a case that we have been expecting since the outbreak has started. Almost surprised that it has taken this long. It is clear the pandemic plan is working well." 

The World Health Organisation raised its risk level to 'very high', but says containment was still possible.

COVID-19 has so far killed 2933 people and infected more than 85,000.