Thirteen New Zealanders are on a cruise ship that was barred from Malta because of coronavirus fears, the Health Ministry has confirmed.
Speaking at the latest briefing on the response to the coronavirus, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the 13 New Zealanders on the MSC Opera cruise ship near Greece, which was unable to find a port after Malta refused to allow it to dock, were all well.
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He said there were four New Zealand crew members on the Grand Princess in San Francisco and he was not aware of any health concerns around those people.
One Kiwi is also quarantined on a boat on a Nile cruise, and he was not aware of any concerns around that either.
Dr Bloomfield also said there are now 54 staff members from North Shore hospital in self-isolation after having close contact with a probable case of coronavirus.
He said some staff would be back to work by this Wednesday and all staff would be back at work by 16 March.
The Ministry of Health will also widen the testing for coronavirus to include people who are showing symptoms regardless of their travel history or exposure to a confirmed case.
Dr Bloomfield said that by widening the scale in which they tested people, they would not miss cases and have a better chance of containing the spread.
He said while there were no new confirmed or probable cases to report today, the laboratory capacity for testing will expand.
He said health authorities would be able to process more than 1000 tests a day across New Zealand if required, with an Auckland lab able to do 750 alone.
- If you have symptoms of coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)
The Ministry of Health confirmed on Saturday a fifth person has tested positive for coronavirus.
The fifth case is a woman in her 40s, who is the partner of the third case confirmed in New Zealand.
The family are believed to have caught the disease after a family member recently returned from Iran, where there is community spread of the disease.
She was already in self-isolation and did not require hospital-level care.
The fourth case was a New Zealand citizen in his 30s, the partner of a woman who tested positive to Covid-19 after returning from northern Italy.
Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:
- Covid-19: What you need to know
- Timeline: virus's spread across the globe
- Scientific hand-washing advice to avoid infection
- Coronavirus patient 'never really felt unwell'
- More Covid-19 news
Meanwhile, the government has singalled more economic help for businesses and workers affected by the virus.
Cabinet will today finalise the next steps in its economic plan around Covid-19. Finance Minister Grant Robertson said Ministers are "actively considering a range of options" that will be discussed in Cabinet today and rolled out this week.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has also upgraded its travel advice for parts of northern Italy, advising against non-essential travel to the Lombardy region, the 15 provinces that have been isolated by the Italian authorities due to the covid-19 outbreak including the cities of Milan and Venice.
The ministry said there were 233 New Zealanders registered as being in Italy.
It said establishing accurate figures for specific areas was challenging, as many people who registered only listed their travel destination or place of residence as Italy.
Air New Zealand today scrapped its financial forecasts for the current year because of the uncertainty caused by the virus, as it cuts more services, froze hiring and its chief executive took a pay cut.
Greg Foran said the airline was now facing an unprecedented situation and it is difficult to predict future demand. Foran, who only started in February, said he would take a voluntary 15 percent cut in his base salary of $1.65m, worth about $250,000, while a pay freeze for senior staff would be extended.