VIRUS UPDATES
* US Masters Golf, English Premier League football and Six Nations rugby among major sporting events postponed
* NZ First MP Tracey Martin self-isolates after meeting infected Australian government minister
* Black Caps cricket star also self-isolates after team's loss in which Australian player withdrew
* Is it safe to go out this weekend? What shall I do?
* All you need to know - essential information and latest updates

New coronavirus travel restrictions could be announced today after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern convenes a conference with a special committee of senior ministers.

It comes as US President Donald Trump declares a national emergency on Saturday (NZT), as public life in America continues to grind to a halt, AP reports

Speaking from the Rose Garden, Trump said, "I am officially declaring a national emergency." He said the emergency would open up $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the outbreak.

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He also announced a new public-private partnership to expand coronavirus testing capabilities, as his administration has come under fire for being too slow in making the test available. Trump said, "I don't take responsibility at all" for the slow roll-out of testing.

The partnership will include drive-thru testing in some locations and an online portal to screen those seeking to get tested.

Still, Trump said that officials don't want people taking the test unless they have certain symptoms. "It's totally unnecessary," Trump said. He added, "This will pass."

Trump said the White House and Congress have yet to agree on a broader aid package, claiming that he doesn't believe House Democrats are "giving enough." Lawmakers are preparing to vote on their own measure.

Concerns about the coronavirus pandemic rippled across the globe. Major sporting events - including the US Masters golf tournament, English Premier League football games and Six Nations rugby matches - were postponed.

Ardern has signalled tougher travel restrictions will be imposed and has refused to rule any countries out, even Australia.

She said yesterday details of the travel bans would be hashed out over the weekend.

Following Trump's announcement to stop all flights between Europe and the US for 30 days, Ardern has not ruled out a ban on travellers coming in from Europe.

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Nor has she ruled out restrictions for people coming from the US, where the number of positive cases has risen to more than 1200 - with 36 deaths.

"We have to be concerned where we've seen outbreaks in any part of the globe," Ardern said yesterday.

There are also likely to be restrictions on travel from New Zealand to the Pacific.

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This morning Ardern will chair a conference call for a special meeting of the Cabinet committee, which was set up specifically to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

She is expected to announce further details around travel restrictions later today - though it could be pushed to Sunday when she will be in Christchurch for the March 15 mosque shootings anniversary.

The committee meets regularly on Wednesdays but Ardern has said it is ready to meet "no matter what time of day", particularly when health officials have fresh advice about border restrictions or self-isolation requirements.

Up to a dozen of the Government's most senior ministers sit on the committee, including Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Finance Minister Grant Robertson, Health Minister David Clark and Education Minister Chris Hipkins.

One matter they will discuss is how the travel bans around the world could affect the supply chain of health products.

For example, about two-thirds of pharmaceuticals in New Zealand come via air, and the Government will look to ensure there are back-up supply chains.

President Donald Trump speaking in an address from the Oval Office at the White House about the coronavirus. Photo / AP
President Donald Trump speaking in an address from the Oval Office at the White House about the coronavirus. Photo / AP

The committee will also consider the latest advice from the Ministry of Health's technical advisory group, chaired by director of public health Caroline McElnay.

The Ministry of Health's national health coordinating committee, which is made up of health experts and senior officials across the state sector - including police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - will also continue to operate over the weekend, including keeping watch on developments around the world.

Current travel restrictions in New Zealand include a ban on foreigners coming to New Zealand from China and Iran.

People coming from Italy and South Korea have to self-isolate for 14 days, and health officials have been empowered to quarantine cruise ships and planes, if necessary.

Focus Live: PM Jacinda Ardern says there will be new border restrictions for New Zealand

Given the recent measles outbreak in Samoa and New Zealand's responsibility as a "gateway to the Pacific", Ardern said the Government needed to do all it could to prevent transmission of Covid-19 to those nations.

"We are exploring what would have some impact, what could have some effect, what could provide potentially an extra layer of protection.

"We take very seriously our duty of care."

This was among the reasons the Pasifika Festival in Auckland, scheduled for this weekend, was cancelled. About 60,000 people were expected to attend, many flying in from the Pacific for the festival.

Ardern said this would affect the ability to contact-trace and treat possible cases within our healthcare system if they then returned home.

Earlier, Ardern said the memorial to mark the one-year anniversary of the March 15 attacks would go ahead, though that could change on the back of any new advice.

There are still no new confirmed cases of Covid-19. The number in New Zealand is confirmed at five, with two more probable cases.

Europe now epicentre of pandemic

Europe is now the "epicentre" of the global coronavirus pandemic, the head of the World Health Organization says.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to use aggressive measures, community mobilisation and social distancing to save lives, RNZ reports.

"Do not just let this fire burn," he said.

His comments came as several countries in Europe reported steep rises in the number of infections and deaths. Spain is now the worst affected after Italy.

On Friday, Spain reported a 50 per cent jump in fatalities to 120. Infections increased to 4200.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says a state of emergency will come into effect there on Saturday for two weeks.

Controls are also being introduced at an increasing number of borders in Europe, in response to the rapid spread of the virus.

More than 132,500 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in 123 countries around the world, according to the WHO.

The total number of deaths has reached about 5000 - a figure Dr Tedros described as "a tragic milestone".

"Europe has now become the epicentre of the pandemic, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China," he said.

"More cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic."

Europe's worst-affected country, Italy, has now reported more than 15,100 cases and 1000 deaths. France has 2860 cases, Germany 2369 and there are now 798 confirmed infections in the UK.

- additional reporting AP, RNZ