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Government slow to take action on new coronavirus

23 January 2020

The Government must take proactive steps to ensure the coronavirus outbreak does not spread to New Zealand and give Kiwis confidence, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.

“New viruses can rapidly spread across a population and take hold before symptoms become apparent. The prudent response would be to provide information to passengers arriving from affected countries and to screen visitors for early symptoms.

“These are strategies that have been introduced in Australia, America and many Asian countries. But the Government has been slow to take the same action to protect and reassure New Zealanders.

“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.”

National is calling on the Government to:

• Make the coronavirus a specific notifiable disease
• Ask health questions on arrival about travel history and any symptoms for those who have travelled from affected areas
• Heightened health surveillance at international airports with appropriate equipment and staff and ensure all DHBs have outbreak protocols in place and sufficient protective equipment on hand.

“Associate Health Minister Julie-Anne Genter’s record on outbreak management is poor, with the meningococcal disease in Northland and dealing with measles across New Zealand being a case of ‘too little too late’. The Government must not make the same mistake a third time.”


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