28 Feb 2020

Coronavirus: New travel restrictions for Iran announced

3:49 pm on 28 February 2020

The government has announced new travel restrictions for Iran as it fights back against the global spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

People wear masks after deaths and new confirmed cases revealed from the coronavirus in Tehran, Iran.

People wear masks after deaths and new confirmed cases revealed from the coronavirus in Tehran, Iran. Photo: AFP

Health Minister David Clark confirmed that the travel restrictions for Iran will take effect from today.

He also announced there would be no exemptions for students from China to enter the country and an increased health staff presence at international airports.

Watch a live stream of the Health Ministry's latest press conference here:

Dr Clark said the enhanced travel restrictions and an increased border presence added to the government's existing actions to limit the risk of the virus entering the country.

"The situation in Iran is obviously concerning. There is ongoing spread of the disease there, and a large degree of uncertainty about the scale of the outbreak and the ability to contain it.

"Based on the medical and scientific advice, Ministers have put in place further temporary travel restrictions covering incoming travellers from Iran. This means people will not be able to travel from Iran to New Zealand and anyone who has been in Iran in the last 14 days will need to self-isolate."

He said this was a "sensible precaution" as many airlines had already cancelled flights from Iran.

"New Zealand citizens and permanent residents will still be allowed to return home, but will be told to self-isolate for 14 days.

"These restrictions will come into force immediately, and will initially apply until midnight Tuesday 3 March. They will be reviewed every 48 hours, which is the same approach being taken to the China travel restrictions that have been in place since 3 February."

Testing was under way for a suspected Coronavirus case in New Zealand. Ministry of Health says results expected later today.

More than 120 people have been tested for the virus, but none have so far returned a positive result.

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

Health officials would now meet flights from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand at the airport, Dr Clark said.

"Our border response is further ramping up to have health staff available for all international flights into New Zealand.

"They will be available to provide advice and check passengers - particularly anyone that is unwell or displaying symptoms of concern."

Dr Clark acknowledged that universities had requested to allow exemptions to let overseas students from China into New Zealand at this time, but said "our priority is protecting New Zealanders".

"The situation with Covid-19 is rapidly evolving. We are seeing concerning trends internationally, with more and more countries reporting confirmed cases.

"Now is not the time to step back from our approach. We must put the health and safety of New Zealanders first.

"The advice from officials, including health was not to proceed with an exemption.

"Allowing thousands of students into the country from China, and guaranteeing they were safely in self-isolation, would have been incredibly difficult to implement and was not a risk the Government was prepared to take on New Zealanders' behalf," Dr Clark said.

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