The Minister of Health has pushed back against claims health authorities are not properly preparing for a potential arrival of the deadly coronavirus and says the Government is "alert but not alarmed".
There have been 17 deaths and more than 540 confirmed case of the flu-like virus in China, with the city of Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak, shutting down public transport and advising people not to leave the area.
While there have been no confirmed cases in New Zealand, the National Party says the Government has been slow to take action to prepare if it does land on our shores.
"The prudent response would be to provide information to passengers arriving from affected countries and to screen visitors for early symptoms," National Party health spokesman Michael Woodhouse said.
"It's fair to characterise our response at this time as alert but not alarmed,"
The Opposition has called for authorities to make coronavirus a notifiable disease, ask health questions of those arriving in the country and heighten surveillance at international airports.
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"Given Chinese New Year celebrations are nearly upon us, large numbers of expected international visitors, combined with large gatherings, increases the risk of the virus arriving in New Zealand and spreading," Woodhouse said.
But Health Minister David Clark says New Zealand health officials have been monitoring the spread of the virus since January 6 and the Ministry of Health had sent out two notifications since.
"It's fair to characterise our response at this time as alert but not alarmed," Clark told reporters.
"There have been no cases identified in NZ but nonetheless we have triggered our pandemic response in line with our pandemic plan."
The World Health Organisation has met to discuss the global risk posed by the virus, but delayed a decision about whether the declare an international emergency until tomorrow.
"We're watching that situation closely and working with international partners," Clark said.
Clark said the Ministry of Health had already established an incident management team, a Cabinet paper was already under way on the issue and information was being handed out to those arriving in the country.
"It's a concerning situation, a developing situation and we want to be ahead of it," Clark said