At the end of 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a warning about an outbreak of a new type of coronavirus in Wuhan, China. New Zealand, like many countries, is taking precautions with regards to international travellers.
A number of cases of the new strain of coronavirus, named “2019-nCoV”, have now been identified outside mainland China. However, no cases have been confirmed in New Zealand as of the time of writing.
How will coronavirus affect travel to New Zealand? What precautions can travellers take to reduce the risk of catching the illness? All the answers are provided below.
Coronaviruses: what are they?
The new 2019-nCoV is not the only coronavirus in existence. It is actually part of a large family of viruses, which cause various illnesses in mammals and birds.
In humans, coronaviruses cause respiratory symptoms and can range in severity from mild to severe.
On the mild end of the spectrum, 4 strains of coronavirus are known to cause the common cold. Roughly a fifth of all colds are caused by these viruses.
More severe coronaviruses cause serious conditions like SARS and MERS.
The coronavirus from Wuhan is a new strain that has never been seen in people before. It is thought to have mutated from a type that previously only affected animals.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
The Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV) causes mild symptoms in some patients but can be severe. Like the flu, it can be fatal in a minority of cases. The most serious cases have generally been among the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.
Coronavirus symptoms are very similar to those of a cold or flu, and include:
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
These symptoms can be indicative of various illnesses and many patients who are only mildly affected might not realize they have coronavirus.
However, if you have recently visited China or have been in contact with somebody who has and is experiencing symptoms, it is advisable to contact a doctor and/or self-isolate for 14 days to ensure that if you have the virus you do not pass it on.
More severe symptoms of coronavirus include:
- Breathing problems
Individuals experiencing difficulty breathing should seek medical attention immediately.
What is New Zealand doing about coronavirus?
Like several other countries, New Zealand has placed a temporary travel ban on foreign travellers arriving from China to try and prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The ban was announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on 2nd February 2020 and would last for 2 weeks, being reviewed every 2 days.
New Zealand has also made efforts to evacuate its own citizens and those of some of its international allies from China. Nearly 200 evacuees from NZ, Australia, the UK, and various Pacific island countries were flown by Air New Zealand to Auckland, where they will remain in quarantine for 14 days.
How will coronavirus affect travel to New Zealand?
New Zealand has placed a temporary travel ban on foreign nationals who have been in mainland China after the 2nd February 2020. This includes the following groups of people:
- Chinese citizens
- Residents of China
- Foreign visitors
- Travellers transiting through Chinese airports
This ban is expected to be in place until at least the 16th February and is being reviewed every 48 hours.
If you have been diagnosed with and have recovered from 2019-nCoV, you will have to be cleared by a doctor and/or the airline’s own medical team, as per the rules of flying with medical conditions to New Zealand.
International travellers who have not recently passed through the People’s Republic of China and who have not had the coronavirus should not have any problems visiting New Zealand, so long as they have the correct documentation to enter the country, as per the normal protocols.
For nationals of many countries, this will mean obtaining the New Zealand eTA – electronic travel authorization.
The online application form for the New Zealand eTA is quick and easy to complete and can be done from the traveller’s own home or office. Travelling to an embassy, as with a visa application, is not necessary.
Learn who is eligible and the other NZeTA requirements.
What can international travelers do to avoid coronavirus
Although there have been no confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus in New Zealand, visitors can take certain precautions, especially if they also plan to enter countries in southeast Asia.
These tips can help lower the risk of catching coronavirus:
- Try to avoid contact with people who have visited regions affected by the coronavirus within the last 2 weeks
- Wash your hands thoroughly after contact with animals
- Do not eat animal products raw or not thoroughly cooked
Useful measures to help prevent the spread of 2019-nCoV include the following:
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
- Keep a certain distance between yourself and others, particularly if either of you is showing symptoms
- Wash your hands frequently
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth—viruses can be transmitted from surfaces you have touched
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible if you begin to have symptoms and isolate yourself from others where possible