30 Jan 2020

Coronavirus latest: 'We're expecting we will get a case'

3:20 pm on 30 January 2020

New Zealand health authorities say there has not been anyone who has met the definition of a suspected case of coronavirus in this country, but they are expecting a case and are prepared for it.

Health Minister David Clark and the Director General of Health have held a media stand-up in Auckland to discuss the latest developments in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

Watch the press conference here:

Dr Clark began the stand-up by saying there had not been any suspected cases in New Zealand and said the public and media should treat rumours of any cases in this country "with some caution".

"If and when we get a case, we will be telling the public promptly. We have not yet had a case of coronavirus. So far we have not had anyone who has met the definition of a suspected case."

Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Dr Bloomfield said they were expecting they will get a case, "but we know what to do if we do".

He said somewhere between three and five tests have so far been sent to the laboratory in Melbourne, Australia.

Dr Bloomfield said he was aware of 7700 cases and 160 deaths.

"The deaths are all in China, the vast majority of cases continue to be in China.

"Our advice for people in NZ who have been in Wuhan in the last 14 days - now based on emerging evidence which is evolving on a day to day basis - they should self isolate. This does not mean they should stay inside their homes and not go anywhere. They should not go to places where they're' going to be in contact with other people if you want to go for a walk around the block that's fine."

Dr Bloomfield said anyone who is symptomatic - whether they are here or in China coming here - will be tested, and anyone unwell will be investigated.

"Around 5000 people in Auckland and 900 in Christchurch - off flights from China - have been met and no one has been displaying any symptoms.

"This is a novel virus, so we don't know what the epidemiology will be as this develops. As we've seen with SARS in the past, we don't know what's going to happen so we take a very strong precautionary approach."

He said an infected person could infect another two or three persons.

"Evidence suggests this is not the sort of virus that you get by casually walking past someone in the street. People get infected following long exposure in a close setting - that's typical for respiratory viruses and it's typical for influenza."

Meanwhile, the government has agreed with Air New Zealand to charter an aircraft to assist New Zealanders leaving Wuhan, Foreign Minister Winston Peters has announced.

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