The Ministry of Health says New Zealand's first coronavirus case reinforces the importance of taking basic precautions.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General of Health, has given a coronavirus update after the first case was confirmed here yesterday.

A 60-year-old passenger who flew on Emirates Flight EK450 from Iran, via Bali, on Wednesday is in isolation at Auckland City Hospital.

"What's unfolded with this first case reinforces the importance of basic precautions, the importance of everyone playing their part and the importance of not alienating groups or communities," Bloomfield said.


This was a good time for New Zealand to prepare, not panic, he said.

Ardern speaking to media about coronavirus at Healthline. Photo / Luke Kirkness
Ardern speaking to media about coronavirus at Healthline. Photo / Luke Kirkness

New Zealand needed to keep everything in perspective. It was a single case and there was no need to ensure everything was stocked up in your cupboard by the end of the weekend.

Masks could be useful from spreading droplets but they had to be put on correctly and often people fiddle with their masks so the chances of them getting the virus - or whatever they have - on their fingers and spread it.

If someone was feeling unwell and had planned to visit their GP with coronavirus symptoms, Bloomfield urged them to call ahead so they could be prepared.

Bloomfield said there were 33 seats surrounding the person on the Emirates flight with 20 passengers taking up those seats - the flight was not full.

However, three other passengers came and occupied some of the empty seats and several "sources of information" were being used to track those people down and contact them.

A further seven passengers, who on their arrival cards didn't say which seats they were sitting in, would be contacted by the Ministry as a precaution.

Ministry of Health give update after first case of coronavirus in New Zealand. Video / minhealthnz

A number of passengers from the flight had contacted Healthline with staff knowing which rows are affected.


Close contact with an infected person is regarded as being one metre away from them for at least 15 minutes. People beyond that were not at risk.

Earlier, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the public to continue with everyday life in the wake of New Zealand's first case of coronavirus being confirmed.

She spoke to media after visiting staff dealing with the outbreak at Auckland's Healthline with Minister of Health David Clark.

Panicked shoppers are flooding supermarkets to buy essentials.

"If you need a bottle of milk, go and get it. If you don't, do not react in any other way than you would any other day.

"The public should be going about their daily lives."

It was important to remember there was only one confirmed case of Coronavirus in New Zealand and the response had been "text book" in every regard.

The patient is "stable and continuing to improve," Ardern said.

Passengers onboard the flight the patient flew into New Zealand on had no need for concern.

Anyone who was sitting within two seats in front or behind the passenger on the flight had been contacted, given health information and guidance on what they could do if they presented symptoms.

In regards to comments made by the National Party about an inadequate response by the Government and the health system, Ardern said they were not taking advice from the Opposition but by experts worldwide.

The patient contacted Healthline before heading to the hospital, which was the right plan of action, Arden said.

Throat and nose swabs were conducted on the patient and it was not unusual for false negative responses to come back, hence the reason why the first two tests on the patient came back negative and the third positive.

Yesterday, Healthline received around 1300 calls in regards to Coronavirus.

The Prime Minister said the public should only seek information from the appropriate website, and not taking advice from social media.

Earlier, experts urged the public to remain calm.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff said yesterday afternoon that health authorities are closely monitoring the situation in line with World Health Organisation guidance.

"I encourage Aucklanders to remain calm. The ministry will advise if any public health measures become necessary."

And 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.

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"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.