TODAY |

'We are prepared' - Health Minister gives update on coronavirus as pandemic response triggered

New Zealand is preparing in the event the deadly coronavirus makes its way across the border.

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The number of cases has rocketed to more than 500 and growing, and its not just in China. Source: 1 NEWS

There have been no cases identified in New Zealand, "but nonetheless we have triggered our pandemic response in line with our pandemic plan", Health Minister David Clark said today.

"We are prepared and we’re not embarrassed to be perhaps over-prepared because at this stage it is a concerning situation and we want to be ahead of it.

"Additional resources will be made available if needed, there’s no question about that."

So far, 17 people have died in Hubei province in China. The World Health Organisation has brought together experts on whether the outbreak in China should be declared a global emergency.

"There’s mounting international concern," Mr Clark said. "WHO is expected tomorrow to decide whether to declare an international public health emergency. We’re watching that situation closely and working with international partners."

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The World Health Organisation has brought together experts on whether the outbreak in China should be declared a global emergency. Source: 1 NEWS

He said there were established communication pathways for any suspected cases "so they can be followed up with quickly", labelling New Zealand’s response as "alert, but not alarmed" at this stage.

Information is being distributed at the New Zealand border giving advice about symptoms and how to respond. A Cabinet paper is underway “to ensure the coronavirus is formally identified as a notifiable disease”, Mr Clark said.

"At this stage we are taking a precautionary approach. We’re actively monitoring the situation, and we’re talking with our partners on a daily basis."

National’s health spokesperson, Michael Woodhouse, this morning called the Government’s response "slow".

"Given Chinese New Year celebrations are nearly upon us, large numbers of expected international visitors, combined with large gatherings, increases the risk of the virus arriving in New Zealand and spreading.

"With reports Wuhan has stopped all public transport and flights to try to contain the deadly virus, it’s clear the Government is not doing enough to prevent the disease arriving in New Zealand."