Coronavirus: Passengers sitting near New Zealand's first patient won't be tested for disease

The Ministry of Health will not be testing people who were sitting near New Zealand's first COVID-19 coronavirus patient unless they become symptomatic.

The Ministry's Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says there are 18 people who sat in "seats of interest" near the infected person during the flight, but they will only be placed in supervised self-isolation for 14 days.

This is a precaution so those people who were near the patient can be observed to ensure they aren't infected.

"None of those people will be tested unless they become symptomatic. So the key thing here is to ensure they're in supervised self-isolation," Dr Bloomfield says.

"The person who has been identified with an infection was wearing a mask throughout the flight, so that will have reduced the likelihood of droplet spread."

He added everyone who wasn't sitting in close range of the infected passenger will be contacted by Healthline to see how they are.

But due to "excellent" filtration systems on modern aircrafts, Dr Bloomfield believes it's more likely only people who were sitting very close to the COVID-19 patient may become infected.

The 18 people who are in supervised self-isolation are spread throughout New Zealand, with some in Auckland, Nelson and Christchurch.

There is still only one confirmed case in New Zealand. There are 11 COVID-19 tests the Ministry of Health is currently waiting for results on.