Eight Rotorua police staff are in isolation after coming into contact with a man in custody who is being tested for coronavirus.

Police said this afternoon a man who was taken into custody on Wednesday self-reported to police this morning that he had recently returned from Hong Kong and was feeling unwell.

Focus Live: Ministry of health confirm there are no new cases of coronavirus but encourage the public to be vigilant.

He was one of two people taken into custody after an event involving a threat at the Rotorua District Court yesterday.

The courthouse was put into lockdown after a caller telephoned an implied gun threat and police were notified at 4.10pm.


As part of standard procedures, that resulted in the closure of the courthouse, which remained closed today.

The Rotorua Court House is still closed today. Photo / Stephen Parker
The Rotorua Court House is still closed today. Photo / Stephen Parker

As a precaution, the unwell man is being tested for Covid-19 and has been put into isolation.

Three arresting officers and five custody staff had close contact with the person in custody and were self-isolating as a precaution, a police spokeswoman confirmed to NZME.

"In addition to the eight police staff who had close contact with the man, two people in custody at Rotorua Police Station are believed to have been in close contact with him. They have also been placed in isolation at the station.

Only the unwell man was being tested for the deadly virus as the others in isolation were showing no symptoms so did not require testing.

"Where necessary, people taken into custody in Rotorua may be transported to and held at either Taupō or Tauranga police stations."

In total, 37 people were in custody at the station at 3pm today.

Police were unable to provide a timeframe for the test results on the unwell man.


Police are now working closely with regional public health officials, the Ministry of Justice and Department of Corrections officials to manage the situation.

The police station's custody unit had been decontaminated, and the station remained open to the public. The Rotorua courthouse was also being decontaminated.

Carl Crafar, chief operating officer of the Ministry of Justice, said: "The person was in police custody while at the Rotorua courthouse. As they appeared via audio-visual link, not in person in a courtroom, they had no contact with the public or ministry staff."

Police were working with the Ministry of Health to start contact tracing.

Bay of Plenty Police Association director Scott Thompson said he was pleased to hear Rotorua senior police had taken a proactive approach to the situation.

"Erring on the side of caution to ensure our staff after kept safe from any potential risk is a good thing.


"It's only what our staff would expect and also what any employer should do," he said.

The notice outside the Rotorua High Court on Thursday. Photo / Stephen Parker
The notice outside the Rotorua High Court on Thursday. Photo / Stephen Parker

The Ministry of Health could not respond to specific questions asked by NZME.

A ministry spokeswoman said: "The ministry doesn't provide details about testing processes underway."

"We do expect public health and other agencies to respond appropriately to incidents and to follow agreed processes and protocols to keep the public, agencies and health professionals safe."

Meanwhile, Health Minister David Clark said there were no plans currently to ban travel from Europe to New Zealand after US President Donald Trump announced a 30-day ban on travel between Europe and the US to combat the spread of Covid-19.

Beginning Friday, 26 European nations will be restricted from passage to the United States.


However, Trump said the restrictions would not apply to the United Kingdom, and there would be exemptions for "Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings." It also wouldn't apply to cargo.

Clark said the Government did not plan on banning large-scale public events at this stage, such as the March 15 one-year anniversary event planned for Sunday.

National leader Simon Bridges has called on the Government to extend its travel ban to include Italy and South Korea, and he reacted to the Trump's announcement by saying New Zealand should look at all options "which will slow the virus's growth in our country".

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said every country had a different situation and there had been a community outbreak in the US, but there had only been transmissions within families in New Zealand.

He said there would clearly be an economic impact to Trump's travel ban, and the Government would continue to work on the details of its package to help businesses, more of which are expected to be announced next week.

Earlier this month, two Italian Crankworx competitors who say they are healthy were forbidden from competing and forced to self-isolate in their Rotorua hotel room as a precaution over Covid-19.


Torquato Testa and Stefano Dolfin left Italy for New Zealand on March 1 to compete in the Rotorua leg of global mountain biking festival Crankworx. They arrived on March 3.

On March 2, it was announced that people arriving from northern Italy would have to self-isolate for 14 days.

The measures were to apply to flights departing after 11.59pm on March 3.

However, Testa and Dolfin were quickly contacted and told they needed to self-isolate in their room at the Copthorne Hotel in Rotorua and would not be permitted to compete at Crankworx.

Testa, who was ranked third in the world at Crankworx, said to make two "totally healthy Italians" self-isolate was a "violation of their human rights".

Not only that, but neither was able to be physically tested for the virus, he said.


Yesterday actor Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson announced they had both tested positive for coronavirus.

They released a statement on Instagram explaining they both felt unwell in Australia and the tests confirmed the couple had contracted the virus.