The Government is raising New Zealand's overseas travel advice to the highest level amid the coronavirus pandemic, with Foreign Minister Winston Peters sending a blunt message: "Do not travel."
Peters said this is the first time New Zealanders have been advised by the Government against travelling anywhere overseas, which he said reflects the seriousness of the current coronavirus outbreak.
"New Zealanders who travel overseas risk contracting COVID-19. At the same time, health care systems in many countries are under strain and do not have the capacity to support foreigners."
The Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First leader is urging all New Zealanders currently travelling abroad to return home immediately.
"Borders are closing. You may not be able to return to New Zealand when you had planned to. You should therefore organise to come home now," he said.
"If you choose to remain overseas despite our advice, the ability of the New Zealand Government to provide consular assistance may be limited due to internal travel restrictions and the suspension of services.
"Those New Zealanders who are long-term residents outside New Zealand will need to consider their personal circumstances and do what is best for them and their family."
Peters said Kiwis who decide to remain overseas will need to ensure they are well prepared.
"New Zealanders in this situation should keep themselves safe by following the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and local health authorities.
"New Zealanders overseas are also encouraged to register on SafeTravel so they can receive important updates on COVID-19.
"In times of crisis, we will see the best in people, and the worst. To those who say we should not welcome our fellow citizens back to our shores I ask that you put yourselves in their shoes."
Peters' advice comes as health officials confirmed New Zealand now has 28 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, up eight more than the previous day.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is dismissing information circulating on social media that hasn't been shared by the Government, including a rumour about an imminent lockdown in Australia and New Zealand.
The Prime Minister pointed to the Government's website dedicated to providing information about the coronavirus spread: www.covid19.govt.nz, and said to "dismiss anything else" you may see online.
"When you see those messages, remember that unless you hear it from us, it is not the truth."