Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirms number of New Zealanders in coronavirus source city Wuhan

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has confirmed there are currently 21 New Zealanders in the Chinese city of Wuhan where the coronavirus is understood to have originated. 

MFAT has also confirmed that a "small number" of New Zealanders in Wuhan City and Hubei Province have requested consular assistance from the Government. 

"The New Zealand Embassy in Beijing is providing assistance to these individuals and families. For privacy reasons we do not comment on individual cases," a spokesperson told Newshub. 

"We are aware that some countries are providing their citizens with assistance to depart Wuhan. We are working closely with our China Posts and consular partner countries regarding how best to assist New Zealanders in Wuhan."

Wuhan is the sprawling capital of the Hubei Province in central China with a population of more than 11 million people. The coronavirus has so far taken the lives of 80 people in China, updated figures say. 

The MFAT spokesperson said New Zealanders in China "must comply with all Chinese laws, rules and regulations including the travel restrictions imposed by the Chinese authorities to contain the virus".

MFAT's travel advisory for China currently advises New Zealanders to avoid non-essential travel to Hubei Province due to the coronavirus outbreak, and this is under review. 

"We encourage all New Zealanders living and travelling in China to register their details on SafeTravel in order to receive updated government travel advice."

Those details can be found here

MFAT's update follows a press conference held earlier on Monday by the Ministry of Health's Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield. 

"The situation in New Zealand remains unchanged... however, our assessment is that the likelihood of us getting a case is high," Dr Bloomfield said during the press conference in Wellington. 

He said that's because other countries - mostly in Asia - have confirmed cases of the illness and that people can be asymptomatic for up to 14 days so they "may be incubating it" when they come to New Zealand. 

But he said the likelihood of a sustained community outbreak in New Zealand remains low. 

"We have a cross-Government border working group that convened on Friday that includes a range of Government agencies," Dr Bloomfield said. 

He said it is currently "under active consideration" whether people from flights arriving in New Zealand from Australia will be screened since there have been confirmed cases. 

It's understood France, Italy, Japan, Australia and the United States are working to evacuate citizens from Wuhan.

Dr Bloomfield encouraged the public to be mindful of personal hygiene, such as frequent washing of hands, good cough and sneeze etiquette, staying at home and isolating yourself if you are sick, and avoiding close contact with others. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO)'s advice on the illness hasn't changed. 

"They don't recommend any specific measures for travellers and it also advises against the application of any travel or trade restrictions on China based on current information."

The Government has deployed public health staff to the Auckland and Christchurch airports to assess people arriving from flights from China - but the officials are relying on people to come forward if they think they have symptoms. 

If a passenger's temperature is over 38degC they will be offered further advice and assessment "as appropriate".

District Health Boards (DHBs) have developed a hand-out and information post to display at the airports to circulate around flight passengers.

More than 2000 cases have been confirmed worldwide with four in Australia.