A man who was within 10 rows of a person infected with coronavirus on a flight to New Zealand is furious authorities have not contacted him - and National are now criticising the official response.

The Aucklander reopened his business after arriving home from Bali on the Wednesday flight, something that put him in contact with a number of clients throughout Friday.

He only learnt a fellow passenger had coronavirus after friends saw it on the news last night. Despite having no symptoms himself, he has now closed his business and put himself into self-isolation.

Health officials have advised any concerned travellers to contact Healthline, but will only directly contact those in the two rows ahead or behind the infected patient, who is now in an isolation room in Auckland City Hospital.


National health spokesman Michael Woodhouse has today criticised advice to passengers on EK450, saying he has been contacted by a passenger who developed a cough after landing - but was told not to self-isolate.

"He called Healthline asking whether he should go to the hospital for a check-up. He was told not to worry if his temperature is under 38 degrees. He was also advised to take Panadol which would lower a temperature.

Authorities will only directly contact passengers seated within two rows of the infected person. Photo / supplied
Authorities will only directly contact passengers seated within two rows of the infected person. Photo / supplied

"He was told that he would not need to self-isolate and could go to work on Monday. He has chosen to go into isolation anyway. Health Minister David Clark should be directing his officials to track down everyone who was on that flight. It's extraordinary that someone with flu-like symptoms on this flight hasn't been told to self-isolate."

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Authorities have urged the public to remain calm after the first case of Covid-19 coronavirus, passenger who flew on Emirates Flight EK450 from Iran, via Bali, on Wednesday.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the person wore a mask during the flight so it was unlikely they had transmitted it to other passengers. But authorities were contacting flight crew, close contacts and people who were sitting near the individual. They would all be asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

The businessowner who spoke to the Herald asked not to be named for fear of ongoing repercussions for his livelihood.

"It is really shameful the way it is being handled," he said. "The minute that person was suspected, they should have contacted everybody. I'm pretty sure that person would have gotten up, moved around, used the bathroom, talked to cabin crew. It is actually pretty scary."


He said he believed he was within 10 rows of where the person was sitting.

"I don't want to blow it out of proportion, but we have seen how quick it can spread in other countries.

"A plane is a breeding ground for things. Coming into the country the only process was, 'Have you been to China in the last two weeks?' And that's it."

The man felt the only responsible thing to do was to shut his business for two weeks, despite fearing it would be hard to recover from such a financial setback.

The infected person travelled home in a private car but felt unwell so family called Healthline. They were advised to seek medical attention and went to the hospital's emergency department.

University of Otago professor of public health Michael Baker has said people who were on the same flight as the infected person should not be overly worried.

"It doesn't get transmitted completely throughout the airplane environment. It depends on what symptoms were on the flight."

The lack of confirmed cases to date had given New Zealand time to plan carefully, Baker said, and how the first case was dealt with was "a really nice example of how the [NZ health] system is responding" to the world health emergency.

Health Minister David Clark has announced a raft of new measures to combat the spread of coronavirus, including new travel restrictions from Iran. The Ministry of Health says there is a high likelihood of sporadic cases in New Zealand but the chances of a community outbreak remains low.