Government officials announced on Saturday, February 15, that it will extend the entry ban on foreign nationals traveling from or transiting through mainland China until at least Sunday, February 23, 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 15.
Air New Zealand has suspended flight operations to Shanghai from Sunday, February 9, through Sunday, March 29. This followed 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 the COVID-19 virus 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 28 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:
• Avoid all contact with animals (dead or alive); avoid eating animal products that are undercooked; avoid all markets where animals are sold
• Avoid all close contact with people displaying symptoms of the disease (e.g. difficulties breathing)
• Frequently wash hands, wear a face mask
• Individuals within China developing symptoms of pneumonia are advised to seek medical attention, avoid contact with other people, and wash hands regularly
• Adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments
• Travelers returning from China developing symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to avoid spread of the disease