While there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus (also known as Covid-19) in New Zealand yet, the likelihood of an imported case in New Zealand is high according to the Ministry of Health.
The ministry’s website says the virus is spread from person to person in the same way as influenza is.
The symptoms of the virus are similar to those of flu and include a fever, coughing and sneezing. More serious symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, require immediate medical attention.
Simple steps to protect yourself and prevent the spread to others include avoiding contact with people who have a flu-like illness, washing and drying your hands carefully while handling food, after using the toilet and after sneezing or blowing your nose.
If you fear you have been exposed to the virus, for example if you have recently returned from mainland China, the Ministry of Health recommends that you self -isolate for 14 days from the date of departure from China. This precaution applies if you have been in contact with a person with a confirmed case of the virus.
The government has placed temporary entry restrictions into New Zealand. Any foreign travellers who leave or transit mainland China will be refused entry to New Zealand. On 25 February the temporary entry restrictions were extended to include anyone who was a passenger or crew member on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, currently berthed in Japan, or any other notified cruise ship, within 14 days of disembarking.
The decision to refuse entry to New Zealand does not apply to New Zealand citizens, permanent residents, residents with valid travel conditions and their immediate family, who will still be able to come to New Zealand.
It is recommended that employers identify risks and make an emergency plan, including a communication plan to keep employees informed. Employees should know who to contact at work and how they should take care of themselves. Employers should proactively check their workers’ travel and possible exposure to the virus. If an employee has possibly been exposed, but is not sick, consider whether that person can work from home, or from a self-contained place, or take leave.
The Ministry of Health has workplace guidelines for planning for an influenza pandemic which can also to any potential coronavirus outbreak. This suggests your plan should include how to:
- maintain essential services
- manage disruptions to supply
- implement alternative work practices
- identify what services will need additional support
- protect workers and reduce the risk of virus spread.
If you have the virus, or possibly have it and you do not need to be hospitalised, it is recommended that, as much as possible, you stay in a room by yourself.
The room should be ventilated, but the door closed, and meals should be eaten alone. Dishes, towels, pillows and other items should not be shared with people in your home.
The Ministry of Health suggests that you should only leave home for urgent medical appointments. Public transport should be avoided and when around people a standard medical/surgical face mask should be worn.
The ministry has a dedicated Healthline - 0800 358 5453 - for advice and information.