Regarding novel coronavirus

by Ann van Engelen

Public health staff are meeting flights from China to actively look for signs of the novel coronavirus and provide advice, information and reassurance to passengers.

“The additional measures are being taken following the arrival of the disease in Australia, via flights directly from the city of Wuhan,” says Health Minister Dr David Clark.

“The Ministry of Health has been actively responding to the novel coronavirus since January 6 when it first sent out advice to GPs and DHBs. Chinese language health advice cards have also been being provided at the border.

“Despite not having had any cases in New Zealand, the ministry has an Incident Control Team in place, and we are sharing information and working closely with international partners. The government’s Interagency Pandemic Group has also been convened as a precaution, to ensure New Zealand is prepared. Our response has been based on best practice, and in line with World Health Organisation advice.

“I am advised that the risk of an outbreak in New Zealand remains low, but we are increasing our health response at the border as a precaution. Health officials began preparations for placing staff at our major airports last week. It builds on the work of border staff, who have been provided information about preventing the spread of the coronavirus and have been handing out health advice cards to passengers.”

Dr Clark took a paper to cabinet on Tuesday, which will make the novel coronavirus a notifiable disease.

Both Auckland and Christchurch International Airports will have a public health nurse available to take the temperature of incoming passengers from flights from China who feel unwell. If their temperature is more than 38 degrees, they will be offered further advice and assessment as appropriate.

“I want to assure the public that New Zealand is well prepared for these sorts of situations — we are active and alert, but not alarmed.”