Coronavirus: Simon Bridges calls China's consul general's comments 'concerning', 'regrettable'

National Party leader Simon Bridges believes it's "concerning" the China consul general made comments about the Government's decision to bar foreigners travelling from China for fear of spreading the coronavirus.

The Government announced on Sunday that any foreign travellers who leave or transit through China will be refused entry to New Zealand.

China's consul general in Auckland, Ruan Ping, told RNZ on Monday the sudden decision could hurt the country's economy - and that would also be bad for New Zealand.

Ruan said two days ago he was talking to Foreign Minister Winston Peters, who apparently said that New Zealand will maintain a normal flow of people between the two countries.

"However, just overnight, New Zealand changed its mind. And I think the trade... should be based on normal exchanges of people. [New Zealand] then cut off the normal flow of people and it will kill economic cooperation," he told Morning Report.

"The Chinese people are now isolating the coronavirus, but New Zealand is... joining efforts to isolate the Chinese economy. That's why I feel very disappointed."

Bridges then came out swinging on Monday afternoon, and said Ruan's comments were "concerning to see".

"It's concerning to see the comments of the consul general, that Minister Peters has effectively said there will be normality in relation to travel arrangements and the like, and then to see the change so quickly after that," he said at a media stand-up.

"That's a regrettable position to have our largest trading partner making those sort of comments and being alarmed at the messaging behind the scenes. And then the change publicly only 24 hours or thereabouts after it."

Bridges believes the Government's "flip-flop" with China is one "we wouldn't want to see" because it's a large trading partner.

He said the economic impacts will "undoubtedly have an effect in New Zealand".

"We look at New Zealand, there are many sectors that are already feeling the effects. Top of that list has to be tourist operators."

Bridges added that National's foreign affairs spokesperson Todd McClay is reportedly getting feedback from tourism businesses who are feeling the impact of flight cancellations from China.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement on Sunday that the Government had been advised by health officials to take a precautionary approach to the transmission of coronavirus.

"We have been advised by health officials that while there are still a range of unknowns in the way the virus is being transmitted, we should take a precautionary approach and temporarily stop travel into New Zealand from mainland China, and of people who have recently been in China," she said.

"It is critically important that we both protect New Zealanders from the virus and play our part in the global effort to contain it."

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters stressed that it wasn't a decision that was taken lightly.

"Ultimately, this is a public health decision. The outbreak has been well-managed by China, and these temporary measures are to reinforce work being done to try and reduce human to human transmission," he added in a statement.

"New Zealand has not had a confirmed case of the virus and the risk of outbreak is low and we want to keep it that way. The health and safety of New Zealanders is our main priority.

"I have been in close contact with my Chinese counterpart on New Zealand's decision and have conveyed New Zealand's willingness to assist with China's efforts to control and defeat the virus."

The ban on foreigners who have travelled from or through China began on February 2 and will be in place for up to 14 days.