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The World Health Organisation’s decision to declare the coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern reinforces National’s call for the Government to increase its efforts to prevent the spread of the virus to New Zealand, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.

“Right now we are only screening for direct flights from China but this needs to be broadened to include all passengers who have travelled from or through affected countries.

“Another step the Government should be seriously considering is screening passengers arriving on cruise ships who have been through affected countries. It needs to also ensure cruise ship operators have sufficient information to provide to passengers especially on hygiene standards given how easily germs can spread on these ships.

“Given how quickly the virus is spreading through human to human contact, we need to ensure our screening measures are keeping pace.

“More health staff should be stationed at all our international airports, not just Auckland and Christchurch. Information and communication efforts to ensure passengers know what to do to stay safe and who to contact if they become unwell needs to be ramped up.

“Accommodation providers, tourism companies and other organisations should be contacted to ensure they have all the information and resources to detect and manage any individual who begins to show symptoms.

“I am particularly concerned our tertiary institutions and their Halls of Residences are not yet well prepared for the arrival of international students from affected countries. Orientation events will mean many students in close contact and serious consideration should be given to risk management.

“Above all the Government needs to show a great deal more urgency and transparency in the actions it is taking to keep the virus out than it is presently showing. Crossing fingers is not a strategy.”

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