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28 Feb 2020 | 01:51 AM UTC

New Zealand: First coronavirus case confirmed February 28

Ministry of Health confirms first case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in New Zealand on February 28; increased travel restrictions and screening measures implemented

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Event

New Zealand's Ministry of Health confirmed the first case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country on Friday, February 28. According to Health Minister David Clark, an individual who arrived in Auckland on Wednesday, February 26, from Iran tested positive for the virus. The individual is being treated in isolation at a hospital in Auckland and is in improving condition as of Friday afternoon (local time). Despite confirmation of the first case of COVID-19, health officials said that the chances of a community outbreak remains low.

In response to the confirmed case, authorities have implemented new travel restrictions for those arriving from Iran. Non-New Zealand citizens and permanent residents will be denied entry if they have been in Iran within the past 14 days. Citizens will be allowed to return home but must self-isolate for 14 days. The new measures will be in effect until 00:01 on Tuesday, March 3, and will be reviewed every 48 hours. Similar travel restrictions have been in place for individuals arriving from China sine February 3. Travelers arriving from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Thailand will be screened upon arrival and anyone that is unwell or displaying symptoms will be tested for COVID-19.

Further international spread of the virus is anticipated over the near term.

Context

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 numerous 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.

Advice

To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide the following measures:

  • 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 tissue away immediately and wash hands
  • If you have 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 local authorities and their home governments

In the case that symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness emerge either during or after travel, travelers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider. Travelers returning from China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran, who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to avoid potential spread of the disease.