The union covering aviation workers says it is monitoring the spread of the coronavirus and urging union members to talk to their employers if they see any health risks.

E tū has 7000 members including crew who regularly fly to China on a daily Shanghai flight and airport workers who interact with thousands of travellers every day.

E tū's head of aviation, Savage, says the union's delegates and health and safety representatives are keeping a close watch on developments.

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"Every employer has a duty of care to ensure employees are well-informed and that safety procedures and equipment are fit for purpose at the increased risk levels being experienced," said Savage.


"It is important that workers talk to their employer whenever they see any risk to health and safety. Everyone at work has an obligation to be safe at work. But, in an epidemic situation like this, employers have an extra responsibility to act fast to support the workers most at risk and to ensure they are informed and protected."

An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said, as with all airlines, it followed public health recommendations regarding unwell passengers to prevent others being put at risk.

"For all international flights, should a customer present at check-in or at the boarding gate with symptoms of a communicable disease such as coronavirus, we have robust medical clearance processes to assess whether a customer is fit to travel. Likewise, there are clear procedures to contain the spread of infectious disease inflight and on arrival."

She said ground and cabin crew were are being updated regularly on the situation as it evolved and staff were being reminded of the best ways to protect themselves from viral respiratory infections.

"As standard procedure, our international aircraft carry medical and protective equipment to help contain the spread of infectious disease. We are ready to action further measures if and when needed," she said.

The airline operated one daily return service to Shanghai. There had been no impact on its schedule or any flight cancellations as a result of coronavirus.

Savage said that at the moment the situation does not appear to be worse than the Sars virus. That hit in 2003 and claimed close to 800 lives.

It was important for people not to panic, he said.