Government officials announced on Monday, February 24, that they will extend the entry ban on foreign nationals traveling from or transiting through mainland China until at least Monday, March 2, to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). New Zealand nationals and permanent residents returning from China will still be able to enter the country, but will be required to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival. There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in New Zealand as of February 24.
Air New Zealand has suspended flight operations to Shanghai from Sunday, February 9, through Sunday, March 29, and to Seoul until Sunday, March 8. This follows the decision by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to raise the alert level for travel to mainland China to "Do not travel" on Sunday, February 2.
Further international spread of COVID-19 is to be expected over the coming days and weeks.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in more than 30 countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On February 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the COVID-19 outbreak is a "very grave threat."
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Potentially impacted travelers are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments. Individuals are advised to take precautionary measures to reduce their risk of contracting the virus:
• Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
• When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue - throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands
• If you have a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider
• Adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments
In the case that symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness emerge either during or after travel, individuals are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider. Travelers returning from China who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the spread of the disease.