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New Zealand offers help to Pacific nations as coronavirus outbreak worsens

New Zealand will assist other Pacific nations in their response and likely evacuation of citizens amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

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The Prime Minister said the declaration by WHO puts an emphasis “on making sure we're reaching out to other parts of the world”. Source: 1 NEWS

Today the World Health Organisiation declared the virus a global health emergency. There have been more than 200 deaths and nearly 1000 reported cases of the virus, in the latest figures this afternoon.

"This means more support may go into those countries that may not have the health systems to cope with effectively managing the coronavirus," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today. 

When asked if the global health emergency declaration puts the onus on New Zealand to do more, Ms Ardern said it did not change domestic plans, "but I think does put that emphasis again on making sure we're reaching out to other parts of the world". 

"We already have our eye to the Pacific and the role we need to play here."

The Government announced yesterday it has chartered an Air New Zealand aircraft to evacuate New Zealanders from the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in China. The aircraft will have capacity for around 300 passengers and will fly from Wuhan in China to New Zealand.

On Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a joint operation with New Zealand to evacuate citizens from Wuhan.

Ms Ardern said today there were likely to be scenarios that New Zealand would assist other countries with evacuations from Wuhan. 

"Particularly prioritising our Pacific Island neighbours who are in need to get their citizens out, and then working with Australia, they have more citizens to assist to evacuate than we do, so we will be looking to assist more broadly."

"We know that there are members of the Pacific who are in Wuhan, so we're working with the governments of the Pacific who may need assistance to get their citizens out, and we'll be working to assist with quarantine measures."

Ms Ardern said the aim was to make sure the coronavirus did not spread to wider healthy populations and the Ministry of Health was assisting with ensuring Pacific nations had pandemic plans if the virus were to arrive.