Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the travel ban on foreign nationals coming from China will continue for a further eight days to protect against the further spread of coronavirus.

Ardern, during her post-Cabinet press conference, also confirmed that the travel ban would not be extended to countries other than China.

Major outbreaks have forced Italy and Iran to introduce internal travel restrictions, while South Korea's president Moon Jae-in placed the country on "red alert" after the total number of confirmed cases hit 556.

Ardern said the Government was planning for a pandemic, even though one was not being predicted.


New Zealanders coming back to New Zealand from China would still be allowed to come home, but would need to self-isolate for a quarantine period of 14 days.

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The Australian government has extended its ban on foreign nationals arriving from China, but is allowing some high school pupils from China to enter on a case-by-case basis.

Universities NZ has asked the Government for an exemption for foreign students stuck in China, and Ardern said the Government was still considering this.

But she said it would need to be practical and allow such people to self-isolate for 14 days after arriving.

She said New Zealand was prepared for if and when coronavirus found its way to New Zealand.

"We have a national supply of critical clinical equipment that is ready to be deployed as needed."

That included nine million P2 masks and nine million general-purpose surgical masks ready to be used.


"We have access to negative pressure rooms across 15 DHBs," she said, which would prevent cross-contamination from room to room.

She said same-day testing facilities for coronavirus were in place in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and there was a quarantine facility that could host 150 people from Wuhan, where the virus was first found.

"We are ready from a public health perspective."

Finance Minister Grant Robertson, who appeared alongside Ardern this afternoon, said that an economic advisory group was looking at the potential impacts of coronavirus on the New Zealand economy.

The group, chaired by the Treasury, was assessing three scenarios:

• The expected shock to global demand that would see a drop in New Zealand exports in the first half of 2020, returning to normal in the second half of the year

• A longer-lasting shock to the domestic economy

• A global recession

Robertson stressed that the last two scenarios were not predicted, but as a precaution he had directed Treasury to work on how to deal with them - including the possibility of a one-off injection into the economy.

He said the Government has been proactive in trying to offset the dip in the economy, including an $11m package to boost the tourism sector.

Cabinet today asked officials to look at moving struggling forestry workers into jobs with the Department of Conservation, which could include track clearance or eradicating wilding pines.

Robertson did not know how many workers that might affect at this stage.

He and Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis will meet with tourism sector leaders tomorrow evening for an update.

New Zealand had direct flights from South Korea, but Ardern said the travel ban did not include that country because the coronavirus epicentre was in China.

She said she had "absolutely" heard the Chinese Ambassador to NZ, Wu Xi, who criticised the travel ban as being against the recommendations of the World Health Organisation.

But the decision was based on public health advice, Ardern said.