By RNZ

Cabinet ministers will decide this morning whether to extend the ban on foreign travellers arriving from mainland China - which is due to expire tonight.

An initial two-week ban was put in place in early February to try keep the coronavirus out of the country, and it was then extended for a further eight days.

China has pushed back strongly against the restrictions. The Chinese ambassador to New Zealand Wu Xi held a press conference last week to question why they had been imposed against the World Health Organisation's advice.

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The WHO has warned that travel restrictions can cause more harm than good, but many countries - including the United States, Australia, and NZ - have pressed ahead regardless.

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Health Minister David Clark declined to comment ahead of this morning's Cabinet meeting. In a statement, a Ministry of Health spokesperson stressed the measures were temporary.

"We don't want them in place any longer than they have to be which is why we review them every 48 hours."

New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family are excluded from the ban, but are being told to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival.

No cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in New Zealand so far.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts told RNZ that businesses were missing out on up to $50 million a week in spending as long as the ban continued, but he understood people's safety must come first.

"The Government needs to take the very best health and science advice and make their decisions based on that," he said.

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"[But] when the travel ban can be lifted, when the evidence supports that, we'd like to see it lifted as soon as possible."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last week announced an $11 million funding injection for Tourism New Zealand, to market the country as a travel destination on the world stage.

Roberts welcomed the "good sum of money", but said the government may need to consider more direct support for struggling businesses.

"We don't want to see people in huge numbers losing their jobs... That's a difficult call for the government."

Universities NZ has publicly requested an exemption for foreign students stuck in China, warning that tertiary institutions risk losing about $170 million in fees if the ban persists.

The Australian government has extended its ban till at least Saturday, but is allowing some high school pupils from China to enter on a case-by-case basis.

- RNZ