Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said 53 New Zealanders are registered to be in Wuhan - the city at the epicenter of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

The Government has also decided that coronavirus is now considered a "notifiable disease" - which gives officials powers to quarantine people if required.

Ardern told media at her post-Cabinet press conference that 20 Kiwis in Wuhan have contacted New Zealand, seeking consular assistance.

But she said Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is not aware of any New Zealanders in the city who are showing symptoms.


Ardern said she will be talking with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison soon.

Ardern said there are no New Zealand officials in Wuhan – unlike the US, who have evacuated theirs.

So far, 4193 cases have been confirmed in China, there have been 106 deaths.

Ardern said the Chinese Government have told her that it would be "extremely difficult" to evacuate New Zealand citizens.

Ardern said there is an intent for the US to evacuate their personnel in the Wutan province – but New Zealand does not have Government.

Ardern said she has been told there are staff at the embassy in Beijing – but confirmed that the embassy's doors were not, in fact, open.

Ardern said she has been open in the fact that it would be "very difficult" to get foreign nationals out of the province, even if they are healthy.

Ardern has asked the Minister of Tourism to provide her with an update as to how much of any impact on tourism to New Zealand.


She said it was "early days" but said there might be a waylaid impact on Chinese travel to New Zealand.

Health Minister David Clark said it must be noted there is only once instance of human-to-human transmission of the virus outside China

He said the National Health Coordination centre has been activated.

Cabinet today decided that coronavirus is now considered a "notifiable disease".

Putting it in this category means medical officers would have the legal power to quarantine infected people, if they saw fit.

However, according to Bloomfield, a situation where someone would be forcibly quarantined would be "very, very unusual".


Other diseases which are classed as notifiable include: Hepatitis A, Typhoid and paratyphoid fever and Salmonellosis.

"Most people do come forward," Director of Public Health, Caroline McElnay said during a media stand up this yesterday.

"But there may be an occasional situation where the risk to the public is greater [and those] powers have to be used."

Clark confirmed that New Zealand still does not have any cases of the virus in New Zealand.

Clark said it was very rare that medical officers' have had to use the power of quarantine.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told reporters the Government was monitoring the international situation "very closely".


When it comes to testing, Bloomfield said any tests are being sent to a lab in Melbourne but testing in New Zealand will be available later in the week.

He said health advice around people going to Chinese New Year celebrations is currently being prepared.

Bloomfield said it was impossible to tell when the virus will come to New Zealand – he said yesterday it was "likely" New Zealand will get a case.

Earlier National called for the Government to follow the lead of Japan and the US and evacuate all New Zealand citizens from Wuhan in China – ground zero for the recent outbreak of coronavirus.

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This comes as Aaron Mahon, a Kiwi who says he is trapped in Wuhan with his wife and 5-year old daughter, fears for the safety of his family.


"The feeling is that we're going to die in China. We need to get out of here," he told the Herald earlier today.

He estimated the family had only a few days' worth of food left, with all they have going to their daughter, Taylor.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters says the issue of evacuating Kiwis from Wuhan is far more complicated than people have been led to believe. Photo / Bevan Conley.
Foreign Minister Winston Peters says the issue of evacuating Kiwis from Wuhan is far more complicated than people have been led to believe. Photo / Bevan Conley.

Ardern yesterday said she was seeking advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) regarding the evacuation of New Zealanders, such as Aaron and Taylor, from Wuhan.

But National Leader Simon Bridges said Ardern and the Government need to stop sitting on their hands and act now to bring New Zealanders home.

"A responsible government would be looking after its people. Countries around the world are evacuating their citizens and putting them in quarantine for 14 days," he said this morning.

"We have a desperate family telling the media they fear they'll die of the virus or die of starvation. The Government needs to act to protect them."


So far, close to 80 people have died, with a further 3000 inflected with coronavirus.

The governments of Japan and the US have begun evacuating their citizens from the region.

France has confirmed their citizens will be evacuated by midweek, while Russia, Spain, Sri Lanka and Thailand are asking China to allow their nationals to leave.

Several other countries, including Australia and the UK, are also considering evacuation options.