Coronavirus: Good news as no evacuees infected

The quarantine site for returnees from China after the breakout of the novel Coronavirus outbreak, at the Tamaki Leadership Centre on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. Photo / Chris Tarpey
The quarantine site for returnees from China after the breakout of the novel Coronavirus outbreak, at the Tamaki Leadership Centre on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. Photo / Chris Tarpey
None of the passengers evacuated from Wuhan to Auckland on Wednesday are infected with the novel coronavirus, authorities say.

Tests on the evacuees, who are in quarantine at a north Auckland military base, showed none had signs of the virus yesterday, deputy director-general of health Sarah Turner said.

Their health is being checked every day.

Twelve Kiwis among almost 3700 trapped on a stricken cruise ship off Yokohama, Japan, also received good news, after the captain announced clusters of guests were to be allowed out of their rooms for periods at a time.

Diamond Princess passengers have been holed up in their cabins for the last few days after a coronavirus outbreak on the liner. Yesterday it was announced a further 41 cases had been confirmed on top of the earlier 20 that included a Kiwi, who has since been taken to hospital.

The corona virus is seen in an illustration released by the Centers for Disease Control and...
The corona virus is seen in an illustration released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. Image:MAM/CDC/Handout via Reuters
According to Mfat and Japanese health officials, no more Kiwis have been diagnosed with the virus.

The nationalities of the 41 the newly diagnosed passengers onboard the cruise ship are 21 from Japan, eight from the US, five from Australia, five from Canada, one from Argentina and one from Britain.

Those on board face at least two weeks in quarantine on the anchored ship, and have been told to stay in their rooms. But yesterday a captain's announcement offered hope.

"Masks will be delivered to your staterooms today as we are negotiating with Japanese quarantine officials to allow small groups of guests to spend some time on the open decks to get some fresh air," a statement from the ship's owner, Carnival Cruise said.

The Diamond Princess left the Indonesian capital Jakarta on a 15-night round trip on January 20, but passengers are the latest victims in a virus outbreak which has killed more than 600, mostly in China, and infected 30,000.

Meanwhile, the 158 people rescued from the epicentre of the coronavirus by a Government-chartered Air New Zealand flight this week were yesterday settling in for their two-week stay at the base in the Auckland suburb of Whangaparāoa.

Among them was an Auckland man who was reunited with his 6-year-old son, after the boy went to Wuhan alone for a holiday.

The man, who asked to only be known by his surname Li, is now staying in quarantine with his son.

He praised another family for helping bring his son home.

"Not only did they help bringing my son back, they also helped other people. Another evacuee has two kids and a few suitcases, and this family helped them with the luggage all the way."

The quarantine centre is housing New Zealanders and dozens of foreign nationals, including 30 Pacific islanders, evacuated from Wuhan and the wider Hubei province where tens of thousands have been infected by the virus.

Evacuees are being housed in campervans and are not allowed to go inside other evacuees' campervans, and when talking to each other, they must stay at least an arm's length apart and for no longer than 15 minutes at a time, according to those inside.

But they say they're grateful for the help they are receiving from the Government and each other.

An Auckland woman, who did not want her name used, said she felt lucky the family, including her husband and two young children, were able to stay together.

"There's a dining hall that we can go to and get food. Then you take the food back and eat it in the campervan," she said.

"We got lots of options for breakfast, including yogurt, egg, sausage and bread. Last night, we were also given fruit, chips, juice, water and even a hat. We were provided with a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and all that.

"All the staff members who have been involved in this evacuation are very kind and nice to us. I felt very touched."

Everyone was checked daily and if anyone was confirmed to have contracted the virus, they would be probably be isolated for a further 10 days — the period of incubation for the illness, the medical officer for the Regional Public Health Service William Rainger said.

Anyone who has interacted with them will be quarantined for another two weeks.

Whangaparāoa locals at a public meeting on Thursday night pressed officials on how infectious the virus is and whether it could live outside the body on surfaces for weeks.

The answer was it most likely could not.

Meanwhile, a register for people who've self-isolated as a result of travel to China was due to go live last night.

Healthline has been set up to register people and regularly check on their welfare and wellbeing while in self-isolation.

The Ministry of Health is telling those coming from or via China since February 2 to self-isolate for 14 days after arriving in New Zealand. Those who've specifically travelled to Wuhan or Hubei province before February 2 should also self-isolate.

"'It's really important to us that Healthline staff can check on people's wellbeing and welfare regularly. By registering their status, people will have access to those regular checks," ministry director-general Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.

"Registering will also support our broader response to novel coronavirus,"

A new number dedicated to health-related calls around coronavirus has also been set up.

The number is 0800 358 5453.

- additional reporting RNZ

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