China says the coronavirus outbreak there is generally under control and New Zealand should lift the ban on foreign nationals travelling from or through China.
China's ambassador to New Zealand, Wu Xi, said the New Zealand government's travel ban is at odds with World Health Organisation guidelines and past practice during previous outbreaks.
"The question for me is not to renew or extend," she told journalists in Wellington. "The question to me is should the travel limit be imposed in the first place?"
At the end of January, the World Health Organisation declared the covid-19 virus a "public health emergency of international concern" and said all countries should be prepared for containment and prevention.
However, it emphasised that it was not recommending "any travel or trade restriction based on the current information available."
New Zealand, however, followed countries such as the US, Australia and Japan in restricting entry by foreign nationals arriving from mainland China for 14 days. Over the weekend, Health Minister David Clark extended the ban for a further eight days and said that would be reviewed every 48 hours.
"The WHO has clearly indicated there is no need for limit on travel and trade," Wu said at a press conference. "As member states of the WHO we need to respect and follow their recommendations."
The Chinese ambassador reiterated several times that the number of newly confirmed cases had been declining and "that means the epidemic is generally under control."
According to Wu, the number of confirmed cases has been dropping for a consecutive 13 days outside Hubei province and the number of recovered patients has increased rapidly. More than 10,000 patients have been cured and discharged from hospital, she said.
The national mortality rate is controlled at 2.2 per cent and less than a half per cent excluding the city of Wuhan or Hubei province she said.
Wu noted that in 2009, when China had an H1N1, or swine flu, outbreak, there were far more infections and deaths, yet the New Zealand government didn't impose any travel limits.
"With a lesser risk, why should tougher measures be imposed in this case?" she asked today.
Wu said the bans have already had an impact on bilateral cooperation, with 40 per cent of Chinese students who study in New Zealand now stuck in China.
"We have been asking the New Zealand side to make proper arrangements for those students so their legitimate rights will be ensured and so that their normal study will not be disrupted because of the travel limit," she said.
Wu said that some students already in New Zealand have reported feeling discriminated against.
"We need to look at why we have seen some discrimination or xenophobia and I think part of the reason is maybe a lack of accurate information so that is why I wanted to have a press briefing," she said.
"We are from China. We are at the centre-front of the battle against the epidemic, so I feel it is necessary for you to hear from somebody directly from China," she said.
Trade between the two nations is also being impacted, she said.
"I hope this will be short term instead of medium term or long term," she said.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the coronavirus outbreak is provisionally forecast to knock between 0.2 per cent and 0.3 per cent off New Zealand's economic growth rate this year. Ardern said the Treasury now expects economic growth of between 2 per cent and 2.5 per cent this year.