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New Zealand must do all it can to protect Pacific from Chinese outbreak.

New Zealand has a responsibility to protect the Pacific from the possible spread of a new coronavirus, an epidemiologist says.

PACIFIC – The virus that has killed nine people could mutate and spread further, Chinese health officials have warned, as they stepped up containment measures.

On Tuesday, it was confirmed that human-to-human transmission of the virus had taken place.

The World Health Organisation says the virus is likely to spread in China and other countries and is urging government globally to implement preventive infection control measures in health facilities.

Health authorities say the current risk to New Zealand is low.

However, Otago University’s Michael Baker said the virus had already spread to several other countries, and monitoring and preparation had to be stepped up.

The recent spread of measles to the Pacific showed the obligation New Zealand had.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in December confirmed New Zealand as the likely source of Samoa’s measles epidemic.

“You can have a requirement that people do not leave on flights from New Zealand to Pacific Islands if they have respiratory illnesses that could be coronavirus.

“So, I think we have a huge responsibility to not export this disease to the Pacific.”

In Samoa, where a measles epidemic has claimed the lives of 83 people, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has told parliament that the health ministry had plans to counter coronavirus, should it reach Samoa.