Vigilance as visitor influx nears

Kim Barnes
Kim Barnes
Dunedin concert venues and event managers are keeping a close watch on public health messages, having raised alert levels due to the coronavirus outbreak coinciding with a huge fortnight of activities in the city.

The new virus, which has been linked to more than 130 deaths in China, has been detected in 15 countries.

Yesterday, both Germany and Taiwan reported cases of domestic transmission of the disease; most overseas cases so far have been people who had been in or had links to people who had been in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus first appeared.

Five cases have been confirmed in Australia.

Organisers of the Otago Community Trust New Zealand Masters Games, which start on on Saturday, said no special precautions were in place as yet to safeguard competitors, but Ministry of Health guidelines regarding best practice for public health were being followed.

‘‘We are being extra-vigilant and will be monitoring the situation,’’ a spokeswoman said.

The games have drawn almost 4700 entrants from 14 countries.

While the chances of games participants having come into contact with any of the few confirmed cases outside of China are remote, any travellers with respiratory illnesses have been advised by the Ministry of Health to take steps to avoid disease spreading through unsafe coughing or sneezing.

As well as the Masters Games, in coming days Dunedin is set to host major concerts by Elton John and Queen at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Dunedin Venues marketing and communications manager Kim Barnes said the coronavirus outbreak had had no impact on concert preparations, but developments were being watched closely.

‘‘At this stage there is no need identified to make alternate plans,’’ she said.

‘‘However, we would be guided by Southern District Health Board and the Ministry of Health if any need was identified.’’

The Government has already introduced greater scrutiny at airports for passengers arriving from China.

The Ministry of Health yesterday said about 2000 passengers on flights arriving at Auckland Airport and 300 passengers arriving at Christchurch International Airport had been met by public health staff,

‘‘No travellers have self-identified as unwell and no-one has required nurse assessment to date.’’

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday revised its travel advisory for China, to recommend that non-essential travel there be avoided.

About 50 New Zealanders are in Wuhan, obliged to remain there because of Chinese travel restrictions imposed to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

The Australian and New Zealand Governments announced yesterday they would collaborate to help nationals who wanted to leave China to depart.

“Specific details of the evacuation plan, including the medical protocols that will be applied to returning New Zealanders, and access arrangements on the ground in China are being worked through by officials,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

The novel coronavirus is officially a notifiable disease in New Zealand from today.

■The southern region appears to have avoided any further measles cases, after a scare involving an infectious person in Dunedin for the Whare Flat Folk Festival.

Southern DHB medical officer of health Anura Jayasinghe said no cases had been notified after an alert issued on January 7.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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