17 Feb 2020

Coronavirus impact: Australia willing to evacuate NZ cruise ship passengers - Ardern

9:04 am on 17 February 2020

Australia would fly out New Zealand citizens on board a cruise ship in Japan if it mounted an evacuation, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship at Yokohama port on 6 February.

The Diamond Princess has been at Yokohama port since 3 February. Photo: AFP / Yomiuri

Eleven New Zealanders remain in quarantine on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama.

Ardern said she had spoken to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison last night, and had been told New Zealanders on the ship would be able to fly out with any Australian-assisted evacuation. Australia did not have a confirmed evacuation flight at present, she said.

"They have told us that if they do undertake an assisted evacucation that they will make room for our 11 New Zalanders who are there."

She said they would not need to transit through Christmas Island, which is where Australians evacuated from China were being quarantined.

"We would loook to make a special provision to get them from Australia through to New Zealand ... those details need to be worked through.

"Public health, top of mind. Getting them back to New Zealand and maintaining their public health and others, top of mind, of course."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is looking at options to help the New Zealanders on board.

In a statement, the ministry said it was keen to assist New Zealanders to return to their homes as soon as possible, while ensuring their safety and that of others.

"We are in regular communication with the Japanese authorities, the ship's operator and our close partners about how best to proceed.

"We are in daily contact with the New Zealand passengers through our embassy in Tokyo," it said.

The US government to evacuating Americans who have been quarantined on the ship.

A Japanese defence force bus carries US passengers from Yokoham port to the airport where they will board a charter flight to the United States.

American passengers leaving the cruise ship on a Japanese defence force bus, on their way to the airport for a charter flight to the United States. Photo: AFP / Yomiuri

American passengers were taken off the cruise liner on Sunday in preparation for boarding charter flights home. Passengers wearing masks could later be seen waving through the windows of buses parked near the ship. The evacuees will be subject to a 14-day quarantine in the United States.

Canadian, Italian, South Korean and Hong Kong passengers were expected to follow soon, after their governments also announced plans to repatriate passengers.

The cruise liner has the most coronavirus infections outside China. Its quarantine is set to end on Wednesday.

Government looks at ways to boost forestry, tourism

Cabinet ministers will meet today to discuss the government's response to the coronavirus' impact on the forestry and tourism sectors.

New Zealand's travel restrictions have been extended until next Monday at midnight, putting a further strain on tourism businesses.

Tree felling

Provincial Growth Fund projects may be brought forward to help those in the forestry industry which has been badly hit by the coronavirus. Photo: 123RF

Forestry Minister Shane Jones has signalled a package is being put together to help the forestry industry in time for today's Cabinet meeting.

Officials had been working to see what was possible, Jones told Morning Report. Governments had provided help over the years when problems affected the farming sector and "we're seeking to extend it into forestry."

Jones said China's ports had been dealing with "mountains of logs" coming out of Eastern Europe, felled due to a beetle attack that had ravaged forests, at the same time as the disruption from coronavirus.

"Stakeholders and leaders both in Northland and East Coast have asked if we can bring some of the provincial growth fund infrastructure, transport projects to the table a lot faster to absorb the labour that would otherwise be on the hillsides and in the forests.

"People from the South Island who want to get on with killing off the wilding pine have asked whether some of the labour could be relocated down there, where it could also be relocated to assist with horticultural production. A lot of the Tairawhiti people - and understandably - they want work at home, their kids are at school, their families are embedded in the communities."

Jones said the Covid-19 outbreak was a wake up call to exporters who rely on single markets.

"When our exports are totally reliant on China and there are not other options in ASEAN countries, then welcome to the disruptiveness of international economics and international trade.

"It's a wakeup call to our exporters. If you have commodities that are reliant on single markets then from time to time international trade without having enough diversity will do you damage.

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