The Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand is questioning why the Government's travel ban for foreign nationals coming from mainland China is in place.

Wu Xi asked why the current travel ban was in place at all during a press conference this morning to provide an update on China's response to coronavirus.

The World Health Organisation has "clearly recommended" that there was no need to restrict travel or trade, she said.

"As member states, we should respect and follow the recommendations made by international organisations like the WHO.


"In my view, the recommendations by the WHO is there and is clear cut, and has been reiterated time and again."

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She clarified that the travel ban was not against the wishes of China, but against the WHO recommendations.

The Chinese Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye has also questioned the need for Australia's travel ban on foreign nationals leaving China.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that China had made it clear that it did not support a travel ban.

"We have put that in place because of the advice and evidence from public health experts."

Wu said the epidemic in China was "generally under control", and the number of new cases had been declining for 13 consecutive days.

Asked why China's health authorities had changed the definition of confirmed cases to exclude those who had tested positive but displayed no symptoms, she said it was a new virus and all changes were based on advice from clinical doctors.


Wu said two hospitals with 2600 beds were built in 10 days to treat more patients.

"Our scientists are working around the clock to research the new virus and trying their best to find a vaccine."

She said 1.5 billion people had stayed at home during a public holiday period, refraining from dining out or going to the movies to help prevent coronavirus from spreading.

Media were shown news clips of Chinese officials on the streets with megaphones saying: "Stay at home! Put on mask! No Party!"

Wu said the embassy was in touch with Chinese students in New Zealand and in China. Some students, still in China, felt discriminated against because of xenophobia and they wanted to come to New Zealand to resume their study as soon as possible.

"We need to look at why we have seen some discrimination and xenophobia. I believe part of the reason is maybe lack of accurate information. That's why I want to have a press briefing to release the most up to date information."

Ardern said that online learning for students stuck in China had been made available.

Diamond Princess evacuation

The press conference follows the news this morning, from the Japanese health ministry, that another 99 people aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Japan have tested positive for coronavirus.

The Diamond Princess has been docked outside Yokohama under quarantine since February 4 after people on board were found to have been infected with Covid-19.

The total number of virus carriers has now hit 454, according to Japan's public broadcaster NHK news - nearly 13 per cent of the 3600 people who were on board.

People on board are still being tested, with those whose tests are negative allowed to disembark from Wednesday.

Among the passengers are 11 New Zealanders who are expected to be evacuated by Australia shortly.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that China opposes New Zealand's travel ban, but it is based on the best medical advice and evidence. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that China opposes New Zealand's travel ban, but it is based on the best medical advice and evidence. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Ardern said this morning they will be quarantined in Whangaparaoa once they return, and if any passengers did not want to take the Australian flight, they would face a 14-day quarantine period in Japan before being able to fly home.

Two New Zealanders who were on the cruise ship have been diagnosed with the disease and are in hospital in Japan.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said Japanese authorities were testing people as they left the boat but quarantine was still needed.

"The issue we are thoughtful about there is if someone is in the early stages of the disease and not symptomatic at all, they may be brewing the infection but not have a positive test," he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a Qantas charter flight would fly the passengers from Japan to Australia on Wednesday.

"We'll also be providing spaces on our flight to New Zealanders, I've been in contact with Prime Minister [Jacinda] Ardern and they welcome that arrangement as well."

Yesterday Ardern announced $11 million to help the tourism sector offset the losses from the coronavirus fallout.

Ten millions dollars will go to Tourism NZ to market New Zealand as a travel destination to people in countries other than China - mainly Australia, the UK, the US and other parts of Asia.

A further $1 million would be for domestic marketing to bring tourists to the areas most affected by fewer Chinese tourists, mainly in Auckland, Rotorua, Queenstown and Christchurch.

Cabinet had also been updated with the latest Treasury advice, which was now forecasting 2020 GDP growth at between 2 and 2.5 per cent, down from the previous estimate of between 2.2 and 2.8 per cent.

"Everyone believes there will be an impact. The question is how large and for how long," Ardern said.