Flights are still arriving into Auckland from China today, despite foreign travellers from the Asian nation being banned from entering New Zealand.

Customs has closed eGates at New Zealand airports and all incoming passengers will be manually processed amid growing concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

Customs said eGates would be closed to all travellers including New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and their families. It urged patience "to enable a smooth and efficient transition for all".

The eGates allow travellers to enter the country using chip-enabled passports through machines, with no intervention by Customs officers.

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A pilot wearing a protective suit parks a cargo plane at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in China's Hubei Province. Flight crew flying Kiwis from China will have protective equipment. Photo / AP
A pilot wearing a protective suit parks a cargo plane at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in China's Hubei Province. Flight crew flying Kiwis from China will have protective equipment. Photo / AP

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That will make a significant dent in tourism from one of our biggest markets at the busiest time of year.

People arriving in New Zealand can expect it to take longer to clear border formalities as a result.

Auckland International Airport spokeswoman Anna Cassels-Brown said: "We know delays can cause frustration and we ask for everyone's patience as they move through the international terminal."

Asked if extra staff would be deployed, Customs said it wanted to minimise disruption to travellers. It was considering stopping non-critical work, or transferring support from other business units, to help with the expected increased workload.

Frontline Customs staff must wear a mask and gloves if they are in close proximity to a passenger who has come from mainland China and will be with them longer than 15 minutes (such as when conducting personal searches).

"There are a range of protective hygiene and infection control processes, of which wearing masks is only one," a Customs spokesperson said.

"We have provided all staff with advice on the appropriate use of facemasks and other personal protective equipment (such as gloves and hand sanitiser) as well as standard infection control principles."


As of 10.30am, there had been one cancelled flight from Guangzhou, China - CZ335.

Two flights - CZ336 and NZ289 - scheduled to leave for China from Auckland had also been cancelled by then.

An Air New Zealand flight from Shanghai touched down just before 6.30am today and three other flights from Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing are all due to arrive in Auckland later this afternoon and early evening.

While three flights to China are all running as scheduled - set to leave New Zealand from 8.20pm onwards.


Meanwhile, a military training base north of Auckland is being turned into a quarantine centre for New Zealanders returning from Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak.


Dozens of people will be kept in isolation at the New Zealand Defence Force site in Whangaparāoa for two weeks to contain any possible infection making it out into the community.

The site - officially called the Tāmaki Leadership Centre - is operated by the Royal NZ Navy and is where sailors and trainees undertake outdoor and weapons training.

It has a range of facilities including classrooms and an extensive confidence course on site. It is also known for its beautiful views and scenery.

In the coming days about 70 New Zealanders who have been trapped in the epicentre of a global health emergency will be evacuated by the Government.

Health Minister David Clark said they will immediately be placed in compulsory isolation for two weeks at Whangaparāoa military training facility.

Clark said health staff will check them daily, but otherwise they will try to keep a sense of normality for people and families.


"I've been advised that it's a facility that has appropriate recreation space where people will be able to live in relative isolation, and is also appropriate for people... [so] they can work from 'home', is what we're hoping," Clark said.

"So people can, as much is as possible in this unusual situation, get on with their lives."

No one displaying symptoms will be allowed on the flight from Wuhan, which will be staffed by St John paramedics, an Air New Zealand doctor and volunteer Air New Zealand flight crew.

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionshows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Photo / via AP
This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionshows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Photo / via AP

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said there was a chance some of the passengers will have the coronavirus.

"We also know that the numbers of cases in mainland China, and particularly still in Wuhan and Hubei province, are increasing quite rapidly, so there's a greater risk they will have been exposed, so that's why we're ensuring they're isolated for the 14 days."

He said the flight crew would have protective equipment, and will not need to be isolated afterwards.


A resident nearby to the military camp, Andy Dunn, is relaxed about potentially sick people being quarantined in his neighbourhood.

"You've got to put these people somewhere, and you can't live life in the old 'not in my backyard'. I have every confidence in the authorities to control it."

From today all foreign nationals travelling from China or transiting through China will be banned from entering New Zealand, and there will be tougher controls at the airport, the Prime Minister said.

"Anyone who has visited mainland China in the last 14 days... will not be able to come in and remain within New Zealand's borders. Restrictions will be placed at the border," Jacinda Ardern said.

She said New Zealanders coming home from China under their own steam will be allowed in but must isolate themselves for 14 days at home.

"Much of this is because simply we do not know. We're in the very early stages of this virus, and there are still things that we're having to learn about the way it's transmitted.


"So this is not an announcement that should cause any alarm by New Zealanders; it's precautionary, we're doing it in the best interests of their health."

The tourism industry supports the efforts to contain the virus but says it will come with a cost.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said about 40,000 travellers were expected from China during February, spending on average $4000 to $5000 each, the country potentially missing out on hundreds of millions of dollars.

"The economic impact for New Zealand is quite significant ... It's the uncertainty of how long this might continue for which will be worrying businesses, but of course the health impacts would be far more serious so we have to put health as the first priority."

Clark said there was no date yet for the evacuation flight to take off but they're working to make it happen in the next few days, direct to Auckland.

"Managing the return of people from a region experiencing an outbreak such as this is a major logistical challenge.


"We are now ready to bring New Zealand citizens home."

- RNZ and NZ Herald