12 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: New Zealanders hunker down in Covid-19 hotspots

8:37 am on 12 March 2020

Some New Zealanders trapped in hotspots for the Covid-19 coronavirus say they feel safer where they are, rather than risking a trip home.

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

Tehran is a hotspot for the Covid-19 coronavirus. Photo: AFP

Auckland man Kayc Hilihetule is in Seoul, where he has been teaching English for 10 years, and said the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea had changed his daily routine.

"It just means like, we kinda got to be more aware, we wear masks everywhere, sanitise, make sure not to touch too many surfaces when we're out - especially when we're on public transport, which we try to avoid most of the time but sometimes you gotta go places.

"You gotta be on it, either way."

Hilihetule said pharmacy visits were restricted to certain days and people could not buy more than two face masks per week.

He said people could check online if they had been in contact with anyone infected by the virus.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs).

"Like, all cases are pretty much known when they (authorities) know. They put it up on the internet and they have like a Google Maps of a person's steps, each step that they would take and, like, restaurants that they went to and stuff.

"It's been pretty good in terms of finding out information and stuff like that.

"The only thing is masks, everyone's been trying to get masks here and that's been pretty crazy."

Auckland woman Selina Huang is in Wuhan with her six-year-old daughter.

She was one of those who decided not to take the New Zealand government's evacuation flight early last month because she was worried about being infected during the journey.

Having stayed indoors for more than a month, she said she and her daughter were now used to life in quarantine.

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

She said the Chinese government was doing a good job containing the virus and she was not rushing to get out.

"I think Wuhan right now is the safest place in the world ... to be honest I got a little bit worried about when I go back to New Zealand."

Huang said her friends in Auckland had been very nervous since New Zealand had its first confirmed case.

"They don't think New Zealand has enough capacity to fight this virus if the virus is going to be serious."

A New Zealander who works as a tour guide in Tehran said she had been stuck inside for most of the past two weeks.

She said some people were not coping.

"Some of the people don't mind and keep going on with their lives but some of them, they are really panicked and they are at home.

"It's not a good situation especially mentally. Some people are really sad, or really angry."

New Plymouth woman Ms Li has been video chatting with her husband, an Iranian New Zealander who went to Tehran to visit family, to make sure he is safe.

She said he was now stuck there due to the virus.

(Translated): "They think it's very dangerous to go outside now. He said that they tried to avoid going out. Only his sister-in-law would go out shopping. Every time, after coming back, she would change all the things she's worn - then wash and disinfect them. She would also disinfect the car."

Li said her husband wanted to wait for the peak of the outbreak to pass before returning to New Zealand.

'Things are pretty quiet' in town outside NYC

In the US, the National Guard has been sent to a town outside New York City which has seen an outbreak of the coronavirus.

New Rochelle in Westchester County has had 108 cases of coronavirus making it the largest cluster of coronavirus cases in the United States.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said cases there were on the rise.

"New Rochelle has about three times the number of cases New York City does. New York City is 100 times the size of New Rochelle so it is unique in the nation, in that it is a very dense cluster of positive cases. And it has been going up exponentially."

New Zealander Martyn Clarkson who lives about three kilometres from the centre of the containment zone in New Rochelle told Morning Report he had been working from home.

"My children go to school very close to the centre of the containment zone, so their school has been closed. They'll be home for the next couple of weeks or so," he said.

Despite fewer people driving around and running errands, he said children in his neighbourhood were still playing in their backyards and people were walking dogs. "Things are pretty quiet."

As for his pre-school-aged children, he said it was a timely reminder to teach them general hygiene.

"I've got a two year old who can now wash her hands pretty intensively."

He said the National Guard would come in to clean up the place and also deliver meals to about 100 families in quarantine.

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