A "handful" of people are now being tested for coronavirus in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health says.

A person in isolation at Auckland City Hospital was suspected of being infected with the virus last week, but was cleared on Saturday.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told reporters today there were no current suspected or confirmed cases of the deadly virus in New Zealand, but a small number of people were now being tested.

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"There have been tests done of the last week or so," he said.

"We do expect to get a case. We haven't got a confirmed case yet. And the measures that China put in at its own border … have really reduced the risk of someone coming here who would spread the infection."

Meanwhile, Bloomfield said planning was still going into an Air New Zealand fight being chartered to evacuate Kiwis trapped in China.

The Government was on Monday still confirming number of passengers expected to board a flight leaving from Wuhan - the centre of China's outbreak - as well as the timing, Bloomfield said.

The plane could potentially carry 300 passengers, including from Australia and other Pacific nations, he said.

"People will be assessed before they hop on the flight and if there's any question they are symptomatic, then they won't be boarding the flight," he said.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is still very much firming up the list."

St John ambulance service in a statement said a doctor and two paramedics on the flight would be taking precautions.


"The crew will wear personal protection equipment to keep them safe from infection, they will follow standard processes for all interactions with the people returning from China and will not go beyond the airport to carry out their duties," St John clinical development director Dan Ohs said.

"Ambulance officers frequently deal with diseases that are significantly more infectious than coronavirus is thought to be."

The Government over the weekend announced it will be barring all foreign nationals travelling from, or transiting through, mainland China from entering New Zealand for up to two weeks.

The restriction does not apply to New Zealand permanent residents or citizens and their immediate family, but they will still be given information about how to self-isolate for two weeks upon return into the country.

"That won't be actively monitored," Bloomfield said.

The policy will be reviewed every 48 hours. It follows similar decisions by Australia, the United States and Japan.

Bloomfield on Monday said the decision amid a "rapidly evolving picture".

"We have seen over recent days a very significant number of cases globally, the vast majority still in mainland china, but the number of cases was increasing as was the number of countries reporting a case," he said.

"We were also seeing person-to-person transmission in a small, but increasing number of countries."

China's consul general in Auckland, Ruan Ping, has criticised the decision, saying it would cause damage to both economies.

"I can tell you that only two days ago, our foreign ministers talked over the phone about the outbreak... Foreign Minister Winston Peters said that New Zealand will maintain normal exchanges and people's flow between the two countries," he told Radio NZ.

"However, just overnight, the New Zealand changed its mind. And I think the trade ... should be based on normal exchanges of people … New Zealand is ... joining efforts to isolate the Chinese economy. That's why I feel very disappointed."


Flights are still arriving into Auckland from China today, despite foreign travellers from there being turned back at the border.

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.

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

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."

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.

Three flights to China are all running as scheduled and are 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.

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 the global health emergency will be evacuated by the Government.

Health Minister David Clark staff would 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," he said.