Coronavirus: Health Minister David Clark defends Government's COVID-19 response

Minister of Health Dr David Clark has defended the Government's response to the COVID-19 coronavirus, saying all passengers who arrive on international flights are receiving enough health information.

His comments came after a passenger who arrived in New Zealand from Europe told The Project there was no one there advising them on arrival about COVID-19.

"We had nobody on hand telling us what to do," Zara Potts says.

"When the luggage was coming off the flight there was all of the plane standing around the conveyor belt waiting for our luggage, and we were there for probably 30 minutes in very close contact with each other."

There was apparently "quite a lot of coughing" as they were waiting for their bags.

"As I wryly commented to my husband, if I'm carrying an extra cigarette I'll get fined $500, but if I'm carrying a virus, well no one seems to care."

Dr Clark says everyone on "every international flight" receives an information card on what to do if they begin to feel unwell or they develop symptoms.

"That is a really important part of that response. In fact, the World Health Organisation says it's the most important part because people aren't being allowed on planes if they're unwell.

"What we can give them is good information that if they do start to feel unwell later on or a day or two afterwards, they know where to get help and they know what steps to take."

He added that since border restrictions were imposed on China and Iran earlier than other countries, it gave the Government ample time to prepare a response to the disease.

"That's given us more time to prepare to make sure people do have the health information that they need. And certainly, as they come through the border, there are health officials there for every international flight to make sure people do have the information they need."

Clark revealed live on The AM Show earlier on Thursday that New Zealand had its third COVID-19 case, but he couldn't provide further details at the time.

The case had been confirmed overnight and it wasn't until 1pm on Thursday that the Ministry of Health released a statement confirming it.

He was criticised by National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett for the delay between announcing the third case live on television and the official response, which she says took "almost six hours".

"Why did it take almost six hours after the Minister of Health to confirm a third case of COVID-19 on live television this morning, for the director-general of health to provide any further details for the public?" Bennett asked during Question Time in Parliament.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters defended Clark, telling Bennett the Government is leaving those questions to medical experts and "not making jaundice political decisions about it". 

The New Zealand First leader said the Government is "acting in a responsible and timely manner and at the behest of the medical experts."

Peters slammed the National Party deputy leader's "attempt to sensationalise what is a problem we as a country must all face together".