Coronavirus: Extended self-isolation more likely than travel bans

Newshub understands an extension of self-isolation protocols is more likely than more all-out travel bans in New Zealand in the wake of Donald Trump's Europe travel ban bombshell.

The Prime Minister and Government prefer the flexibility of self-isolation protocols like we have in place for South Korea and Italy, and believe they have a similar effect as travel bans as we have with China and Iran.

Jacinda Ardern is considering changes to New Zealand's border restrictions in the wake of the US President's announcement on Thursday of a 30-day ban on travel from Europe to the United States.

"I expect I'll be getting further advice in the next 24 hours to move again on our border restrictions," the Prime Minister said on Thursday. "We've been very tough thus far - we'll continue to keep moving."

Figures provided to Newshub by the Prime Minister's office compare the number of Italian and South Korean passport arrivals to New Zealand last week compared with the same period in 2019.

For South Korea, 361 arrived in 2019 and that number dropped to just 36 this year - and it was about the same for Italians.

Travel restrictions cost the economy massively but the Government says restrictions and self-isolation are the most effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a COVID-19 pandemic, and the Prime Minister is urging anyone who is sick not to attend this weekend's Pasifika Festival and March 15 Christchurch remembrance service

The Imam of Christchurch's Al Noor Mosque is open to the anniversary event being cancelled if need be, saying: "If they decide we shouldn't do it, then we are happy to cancel it."

There are concerns about public events after a person with the coronavirus was among the thousands who attended last month's Tool concert.

It sparked an unusual debate in Parliament on Thursday about mosh pits.

National MP Michael Woodhouse sparked laughter in the Chamber when he asked the Health Minister if he had "seen reports that mosh pits are hot sweaty close contact situations that can last for hours".

Mosh pits were ruled outside the Minister of Health's responsibility by the Speaker. Mental health, however, is in his domain, including obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD.

Health Minister David Clark appeared on The AM Show on Thursday morning where he gave advice about how to avoid catching COVID-19, including "washing your hands thoroughly" and that "this is the time for OCD".

Dr Clark has since apologised after being called out by mental health advocates. He told Newshub it was a "poor choice of words" and that he regrets it.

In a speech to the Chamber of Commerce in Wellington on Thursday morning, Finance Minister Grant Robertson warned to brace for all of the election year as COVID-19 economic fallout is felt across the globe.

"It is clear it is going to impact the world economy and therefore New Zealand economy for all of 2020," Robertson said.

He said the Government is working on the next phase of economic support for COVID-19-affected businesses, should the economic impact worsen.  

Australia has just announced an $18 billion stimulus package including cash payments for workers, beneficiaries and businesses.

But businesses in New Zealand need to wait until next week for our Government's support plan.

"You'll all appreciate that you can't just click your fingers immediately and do it," Robertson said.