Dettol sanitiser and “extreme worry” filled the halls of Auckland’s student apartments yesterday, despite New Zealand escaping its first confirmed case of coronavirus.
At 3.30pm yesterday the Ministry of Health announced test results for New Zealand’s first possible case of coronavirus returned as negative.
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On Friday it was announced a patient at Auckland City Hospital was being held in isolation after they exhibited the symptoms of possibly having coronavirus.
Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield informed media at a Wellington press conference the patient did not have coronavirus, while urging vigilance amongst Kiwis to keep watching for symptoms.
“We have a result – it’s encouraging that the result was negative and of course, fantastic for the person,” Bloomfield said.
He thanked the patient for “doing all the right things”, including self-isolation after developing symptoms.
The negative test result came as the death toll in China hit 259, with at least another 11,000 reported cases.
And despite the negative test result, in Auckland’s CBD high-rise apartments complexes, apprehension still remained among the predominantly international students and workers.
However, it is not certain this student was the same patient the Ministry of Health cleared of the disease yesterday.
Several of the international students the Herald spoke to outside the Empire apartment complex in Whitaker Place, near AUT University and Auckland University, said they had been back to China over the last few months.
Numerous residents spoken to outside the Empire said a manager from the apartments had informed them to stay “in their rooms” for two weeks.
Chinese international students Grace Tong, 19, and Christina Lou, 18, said they didn’t have to abide by the instruction because they hadn’t returned to China over the summer months.
“Someone from the building said to us in person that we have to stay in our rooms, or inside, for two weeks if we’d just come back from China,” Tong said.
“There is also Dettol in all the lifts now, just in the last week. You’re meant to use it before and after you push the buttons.”
A sign from the Ministry of Health informing residents of coronavirus symptoms was also hung in the foyer.
AUT student Tim Guo, 38, was from the Chinese city of Tianjin and said friends of his had heard that the isolated Chinese student was also at AUT – but he wasn’t certain.
Guo said he hadn’t been back to China since April, 2019, so wasn’t worried personally – and his family in Tianjin were 1000km from the centre of the outbreak in Wuhan.
AUT told the Herald it was contacting all students whose country of origin was China to offer assistance.
They were also asking – on the recommendation of the Ministry of Education – that anyone returning after January 17 stay away from campus.
“Any students returning from China, or unable to get to NZ due to Coronavirus, are being asked to let us know via a form on our website,” a spokeswoman said.
“We are then contacting them individually and offering support.”
Another French international student living in the apartments on Whitaker Place which include the Empire and Columbia buildings said she was “extremely worried” for the last two weeks of her new Zealand internship.
“I saw all the things they were doing, giving masks and putting sanitiser everywhere,” the woman said.
“No information, absolutely nothing. I’ve only heard it from other people. We know nothing, we’re just scared, and hope.
“I’m extremely worried, because the people coming in [to the apartments] everyday – they’re tourists. So everyday is a chance.
“There’s only sanitisers in the elevators but that’s it, that won’t block everything.”
The French woman said employees at Empire apartments were all wearing face masks now – but they have not been handed out to the residents also.
For the Kiwis actually stranded in Hubei province, a charted Air NZ flight is scheduled to depart Auckland today and arrive in the Chinese city of Wuhan on Monday NZT.
However, Kiwis will be checked by Ministry of Health officials upon boarding in Wuhan, and if they display coronavirus symptoms will reportedly be left in China.
E tū Head of Aviation Savage said Air NZ crew onboard the flight would operate with gloves and face masks alongside Ministry of Health officials.
“Only the people without symptoms will get on the plane,” Savage said.
Yesterday, Air NZ also announced it will suspend its Auckland-Shanghai service from February 9 to March 29.
Air New Zealand chief operational integrity and standards officer Captain David Morgan says the move reflects the potential consequence of international travel bans on crew logistics and a further decline in customer bookings on the route over the next two months.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday announced even more drastic measures of all non-Australians travelling from mainland China stopped at the Australian border.
Morrison said all foreign travellers who have left or passed through mainland China will now be denied entry to Australia for at least the next two weeks.
The number of Australians confirmed to have contracted coronavirus rose to 12 yesterday.