'Totally inadequate': Top health official defends response against National's criticism

New Zealand's Director-General of Health has dismissed accusations from National that the response to New Zealand's first coronavirus case has been "entirely inadequate".

A person who'd recently been to Iran arrived on an Emirates flight on Tuesday, feeling sick. Testing showed they were positive for the virus, and the 60-year-old New Zealand citizen is currently being cared for at Auckland City Hospital.

National's Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says the Health Ministry needs to track down everyone who was on that flight.

"National has been contacted by a passenger who was on the flight who developed a cough after landing," he says in a statement.

"He called Healthline asking whether he should go to the hospital for a check-up. He was told not to worry if his temperature is under 38C... [and] he would not need to self-isolate and could go to work on Monday.

Woodhouse says it's "extraordinary" that someone with flu-like symptoms on the Emirates flight hasn't been told to self-isolate.

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

"The Minister should be providing consistent public reassurance to prevent panic - it can no longer just be left to officials."

However speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said people outside the 'close contact' area are not at risk of getting the infection.

"Just a reminder that close contacts in any situation including on the aircraft are people within a metre for more than 15 minutes," he told media.

"It is spread by droplets spread and a reminder that this person was wearing a mask throughout the flight which is most effective in stopping people sneezing and coughing on others.

"The ventilation systems in aircraft are very effective at filtering out particles, and that includes viruses. So others who were on the flight, the message for them is the same as anyone travelling into new Zealand - if you become unwell then you should seek advice from Healthline.

"The Healthline staff have very clear protocols they go through to ask questions about what the symptoms are the person has."

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