David Seymour urges Jacinda Ardern to return from Fiji 'as coronavirus situation gets worse'

ACT leader David Seymour is urging the Prime Minister to return from her trip to Fiji over fears a "crisis is emerging" amid the global coronavirus outbreak. 

"Make no mistake, a crisis is emerging. The situation has materially worsened since the Prime Minister left for Fiji," Seymour, MP for Epsom, said on Wednesday. 

"The number of countries affected has grown to 37, the position taken by foreign governments has hardened, and the financial markets are starting to reflect a slowdown in the real economy. 

"These are just the developments of the past 48 hours."

It comes as world stock markets tumbled amid investor concerns over the spreading virus, which has so far killed more than 2600 people worldwide and infected more than 80,000. 

Jacinda Ardern is currently in Fiji where she met with her counterpart Frank Bainimarama to discuss matters including climate change, thwarting Pacific drug trade routes, and business cooperation. 

Seymour said Fiji is a "nice place" but its economy is "20 times smaller than New Zealand's" making it "not an important trade partner and certainly not a place for the Prime Minister to spend three days as a crisis emerges".

He said the PM has "prioritised a trip to Fiji over dealing with coronavirus" when the New Zealand economy is "at a tipping point", which he said is when Ardern "should be here dealing with the potential fallout".

On Monday, Ardern confirmed that flights from China would continue to be banned for a further eight days amid the virus outbreak and that the policy would continue to be reviewed. 

But the Prime Minister said on Tuesday the Government is not considering a ban on any other nations, including South Korea where more than 900 cases have been confirmed

"That hasn't been in our consideration at this stage," Ardern said in Fiji. "Of course, we continue to monitor really where we're seeing the concentration of cases and that is still predominantly out of mainland China."

Ardern said mainland China has been the epicentre of human-to-human transmission of the virus, officially named COVID-19. 

The virus originated in the sprawling capital of the Hubei Province in central China with a population of more than 11 million people. 

The Prime Minister announced earlier this week that the Government is looking at the feasibility of an exemption for students from China to get around New Zealand's travel ban. 

The Chinese ambassador to New Zealand Wu Xi recently held a press conference, where she questioned the need for the travel ban when it hasn't been recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

"Public health has to be our number one consideration," Ardern said on Tuesday.  

"That means that tertiary institutions would have to be able to demonstrate how they would be able to fulfil some quite strict expectations from a public health perspective."

So far, no cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in New Zealand. The only New Zealanders to contract the virus were aboard a cruise ship in Japan. 

The Prime Minister departs for Sydney on Thursday where she will meet with her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.