Coronavirus: Air New Zealand will charter flight to Wuhan

Publish Date
Thu, 30 Jan 2020, 2:51PM

Coronavirus: Air New Zealand will charter flight to Wuhan

Publish Date
Thu, 30 Jan 2020, 2:51PM

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has revealed an Air New Zealand plane will be chartered to assist in getting New Zealanders out of Wuhan due to the deadly coronavirus.

The aircraft will have capacity for around 300 passengers and will fly from Wuhan to New Zealand.

But there is still a major hurdle to give over, as flying Kiwis back home is subject to approval from the Chinese Government.

Officials will be working through operational requirements with Air New Zealand and Chinese authorities.

New Zealanders in the Hubei region who are registered on Safetravel have been emailed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to register interest in the flight, which is subject to Chinese Government approval.

"We are pleased to be have been able to offer this assistance to New Zealanders in a challenging situation," Peters said.

"We encourage all New Zealanders in the Hubei region to register on Safetravel and ensure all their details are accurate and up to date. This will give us a better understanding of the level of demand for this flight."

"New Zealand will be offering any additional seats to Pacific Island and Australian citizens as a matter of priority."

Consular teams will be working with health officials to ensure that the risks of transmission of the Coronavirus to New Zealand are carefully managed throughout the evacuation process.

Officials are currently developing procedures for: pre-departure health screening of passengers, infection control inflight, and isolation of all passengers arriving in New Zealand for up to two weeks.

Those who want to take a seat on the plane will be required to pay a "nominal fee", however the Government would cover the majority of the cost to charter the flight.

"The New Zealand Government would like to thank Air New Zealand for its support in assisting to bring New Zealanders home," Peters said


Health Minister Update: No cases in New Zealand 

Health Minister David Clark says "we have not yet had a case of coronavirus" in New Zealand.

Clark is holding a press conference regarding the latest on the country's efforts to keep coronavirus out.

Speaking to media in Penrose, Auckland, Clark said they have not yet had anyone "meet the definition of a suspected case".

Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the number of cases was increasing, with the deaths all in China.

There had not yet been a case in New Zealand, nor anyone who fit the suspected case definition.

People who had been in Wuhan, in last 14 days, should self-isolate.

This meant they should not go places they would be in contact with other people.

"The important thing is all of us take standard hygiene precautions."

There was specific advice on the MoH website, being updated daily.

Bloomfield said there was a very small number of possible cases, they had been tested and were no longer in hospital.

Clark said all avenues were being looked into for appropriate housing for New Zealanders coming back from Wuhan.

Bloomfield said this was what New Zealand's pandemic plan looked at.

Options ranged from asking people to isolate at home to a hotel.

"We are looking at all the options, that would be a decision for the Government."

Anyone symptomatic, whether here or in China coming here, anyone unwell would be investigated.

The big difference to other viruses, is this is a "novel virus".

"The issue here is we have a novel virus, and as with SARS, we don't know the impact it could have."

Bloomfield said he thought our border controls were appropriate, 5000 people had been met at the border from China in the past few days and nobody had displayed any symptoms.

All flights from China are being met by public health staff.

The World Health Organisation has been very positive and complimentary about the openness of the Chinese government.

They were able to type and share the virus very early on, January 7, allowing for testing to take place.

"Chinese efforts... have been of enormous help in getting on to managing this virus globally."

Should the evacuations go ahead, there will be pre-flight screening in China, and they were in the process of developing advice for any evacuation crew.

The contagiousness assessment was "relatively low", compared to measles.

This is not the sort of virus you get from passing someone in the street, rather from long exposure.

Countries around the world on high alert for cases of the new virus, which is believed to have originated in a meat market in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province.

There have been more than 7000 confirmed cases of the virus in China and at least 170 people have died of the virus, according to the World Health Organisation.

The disease has also reached as far as Canada, Germany and Australia, with 68 confirmed cases outside China as of yesterday.

So far New Zealand has no confirmed or suspected cases of the respiratory virus, but health authorities have said it's only a matter of time before it arrives on our shores.

However they have said while cases are likely the probability of an outbreak is low.