28 Feb 2020

Covid-19: Virus behaving 'exactly like a pandemic' - Epidemiologist

From Morning Report, 7:16 am on 28 February 2020

Fears a pandemic is on the way are growing as the coronavirus Covid-19 continues to spread around the globe, with one New Zealand epidemiologist saying it's not clear why the World Health Organisation has not declared one yet.

Our closest neighbour Australia has activated its coronavirus emergency response plan and extended its travel ban for a further week.

At this stage there are no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, although more than 120 tests have been completed.

The Ministry of Health also issued new advice to health professionals yesterday about identifying possible cases of the virus, by adding Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Thailand as countries of a higher level of interest when diagnosing patients.

Anyone who has visited those countries in the previous two weeks who develops flu-like symptoms should phone Healthline's Covid-19 number 0800 358 5453 or phone their GP.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade announced a change to its Travel Advice for Japan last night, advising New Zealanders to exercise increased caution in Japan due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

The Minister of Health David Clark and the Ministry of Health were not available to be interviewed this morning.

Medical epidemiologist from the University of Otago Professor Michael Baker spoke to Susie Ferguson and said the virus is now behaving like a pandemic.