A Chinese visitor who came to New Zealand in January for a holiday is one of many from coronavirus hotspots worldwide hoping to extend their stay in New Zealand.
The woman from Shenzhen, who gave her name only as Zheng, said she is worried about travelling because the Covid-19 outbreak is worsening globally and is hoping to seek a temporary asylum here until the situation stabilises.
Immigration NZ is urging anyone who is unable or unwilling to return to their home country because of coronavirus to contact the agency to discuss their individual situation.
Her original flight back last month got cancelled and she says it was "nearly impossible" to get another flight because most airlines had stopped flying to China.
"New Zealand has eight coronavirus cases, but it is still one of the safest place to be right now," said Zheng, who is staying with friends in Auckland.
"I am scared of travelling, of being in a plane where someone may be infected, I don't want to go anywhere. I don't care if my visa expires, because life is more important."
An INZ spokeswoman said the agency was not able to provide figures on how many visitors have become unlawful in New Zealand as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
"INZ encourages anyone who is currently in New Zealand and is unable to return to their home country due to the coronavirus outbreak to contact INZ to discuss their situation," she said.
"If an individual is unable to return home and their visa is about to expire, they are able to apply for a further visa which will be assessed on a case-by-case basis against immigration instructions, taking into account the current coronavirus outbreak and any relevant travel restrictions."
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Visitor arrivals from China are down roughly 40 per cent in the year to February 23 when compared to the same seven-and-a-half weeks in 2019 and 2018, according to Statistics New Zealand figures.
The decline would have been even sharper had it not been for Chinese New Year falling in January, which helped boost numbers a little.
There were 20,200 visitor arrivals from China in the week ending January 26, but this fell to less than 1000 in the week to February 23.
The Chinese government banned international group tours in late January, and on February 2 this year, the New Zealand Government placed temporary restrictions on entry to NZ for all foreign nationals travelling from or transiting through mainland China.
The restriction was then extended to other countries.
"These measures aimed to contain the spread of Covid-19. This has seen a significant drop in the number of overseas visitor arrivals from China since January," said population indicators manager Tehseen Islam.
As of March 16, every traveller entering New Zealand from anywhere in the world, other than the Pacific, are required to self-isolate for 14 days.
This is expected to have a massive impact and bring an even sharper decline on visitor numbers in the coming months.
The total number of visitors in January was actually up 3 per cent to 410,800 compared with 2019, and the largest increases were from China up 6500 (15 per cent) and Australia up 4500 (3 per cent).
Total overseas visitor arrivals for the year ended January 2020 was 3.9 million, up 0.4 per cent from last year.
So far, about 7200 people have died from Covid-19 from more than 182,400 confirmed cases in 162 countries and territories.
New Zealand has eight confirmed cases of the virus but has yet to have any community transmission.