National leader Simon Bridges describes Government's coronavirus response as 'subpar'

"Subpar" is the word National leader Simon Bridges used to describe the Government's response to the coronavirus outbreak, as New Zealand officials grapple with the first confirmed case. 

"We've been saying right since the start - and it still seems to be the position on airport screening and self-isolation processes and other matters - we do seem to be sub-par," Simon Bridges told Magic Talk. 

The Opposition leader criticised the Government for pushing "a lot of talk" about a response but not having "an actual economic plan for New Zealand - and we need one right now". 

It follows Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's confirmation on Friday that a New Zealander had contracted the virus, officially named COVID-19, after returning from Iran via Bali early last week.  

And Bridges isn't the only National MP criticising the Government's response. 

The Opposition's health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said over the weekend he was concerned that officials weren't tracking down everyone who came into contact with the infected Kiwi. 

He said someone on the flight who had flu-like symptoms wasn't told to self-isolate. 

Ministry of Health Director-General Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield dismissed the accusations, telling reporters on Saturday the infected person had been wearing a mask and that the aircraft had effective ventilation.   

He said there were 18 people who sat in "seats of interest" near the infected Kiwi during the flight, and they will be placed in supervised self-isolation for 14 days. 

It comes as stocks suffered the worst week since the 2008 financial crisis last week amid coronavirus fears. The Game Developers Conference, a major video game industry event in San Francisco, has been postponed. 

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said last week the Government is currently assessing whether to include fiscal stimulus in Budget 2020. He said if things got bad, the Government would consider tax relief or income support. 

Magic Talk host Peter Williams asked Simon Bridges: "If we go into a recession because of the coronavirus, you cannot blame the Government for that, can you?"

Bridges responded: "We were slowing beforehand - we were 1.6 percent growth last year - and Grant Robertson can't say 'we've been doing a good job up until now'.

"If you're going in weak and you don't have a comprehensive plan... look, I think we've got a problem." 

China is New Zealand's top trading partner, accounting for 27 percent of total exports in January. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, New Zealand's exports have taken a major hit, with everything from timber to meat facing cancellations and delays. 

An ANZ Bank survey found that pessimism grew among New Zealand businesses in January, and that the coronavirus outbreak is causing widespread alarm about economic outlook. 

Chinese tourists bring $180 million to New Zealand each month in the peak travel periods of January through to April - millions of dollars the economy is missing out on with the coronavirus travel ban. 

An $11 million fund was set up earlier this month to help identify new markets and opportunities as visitor numbers from China remain low due to the public health travel ban.

The Prime Minister is urging the country to be calm - a stance Bridges said he agrees with. 

"People should just carry on and the public health message is the same as you would hear from health officials in any flu season: washing hands, cough etiquette," Ardern told The AM Show on Monday. 

It follows a spark of panic-buying at supermarkets over the weekend. 

Ardern said where there have been outbreaks in other countries, such as South Korea, "they had individuals who refused to give information about who they'd been in contact with". 

She added, "That is not the behaviour that we know and see in New Zealand."

So far, more than 3000 people have died from the virus so far, with more than 88,000 cases confirmed.