Doctor urges Kiwis to keep calm amid coronavirus outbreak - 'There's nothing to panic about in New Zealand'

An infectious disease expert is urging Kiwis to keep calm amid the coronavirus outbreak, saying it is highly unlikely the average New Zealander will be affected by the disease at the moment.

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Infectious disease expert doctor Mark Thomas talked to TVNZ1’s Breakfast about the disease and how to keep healthy. Source: Breakfast

There have been more than 800 deaths from the disease, which started in Wuhan, China. Thousands more are infected throughout the world, including two New Zealanders on board a Japanese cruise ship, but the illness has not yet reached our shores.

The Government commissioned an Air New Zealand flight to pick up New Zealanders stranded in Wuhan, who were flown back to New Zealand last Wednesday and are in quarantine at a military base in Whangaparaoa, north Auckland.

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Those returning for Wuhan will be put up in Auckland’s Whangaparaoa Military Training Facility. Source: 1 NEWS

But Dr Mark Thomas told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning there was no need for people to panic or change their daily routines, including going out for meals.

Mr Thomas said he was not worried for the people of New Zealand or most other parts of the world.

"I think the number of deaths and the number of cases will continue to rise in China, so I think they have got an ongoing problem, but I expect that that will come under control in the coming weeks to months," he said.

Breakfast host John Campbell said he went to a popular Auckland Chinese restaurant at the weekend which was the quietest he'd ever seen it.

"Should we be that alarmed? Should we be that worried? Should we be being that cautious here in New Zealand?" Campbell asked.

"No, it doesn't make sense to me," Dr Thomas said. "We don't have any cases that we're aware of in New Zealand.

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Only 385 Kiwis have advised officials they’re in voluntary isolation so far as the virus continues to spread. Source: 1 NEWS

"If there were cases I think it might be that some of them would fly under the radar for a while but I think that people who became unwell would very quickly be presenting themselves to hospital.

"It would be a very strange person who'd been in China and who was sick in Auckland with a cough and a fever who didn't go and get some medical care, so I think we would be aware if there were a significant number of cases in New Zealand.

"We don't seem to have any at the moment and I think it's likely we won't have any in the next few weeks either."

While Dr Thomas said the coronavirus seems to be more infectious than SARS, there was not yet enough data to be certain. He also said the death rate was low, as it looks to be between two and five per cent.

"There's nothing to panic about in New Zealand at the moment with regard to this illness," he said.

When Campbell asked what the risk to ordinary Kiwis was, Mr Thomas said, "I think the risk of them contracting coronavirus in New Zealand as it currently stands is essentially zero."

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Two of the 13 Kiwis on board a quarantined Japanese cruise ship have been infected. Source: 1 NEWS