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In New Zealand there are as yet no reported cases of coronavirus, but experts say it is only a matter of time before the illness breaches the country’s borders.
Health experts are currently meeting passengers off flights arriving from China in Auckland and Christchurch. Some schools in Auckland are taking precautions by asking pupils who have spent their summer holidays in or near Wuhan to stay at home for a week to make sure they are not carrying the virus.
On Tuesday a hotel in Queenstown became the site of panic after rumours spread that it was in lockdown due to a suspected case of the illness, but the ministry of health said it was not investigating any cases in the region.
The hotel at the centre of the speculation said the episode caused “unnecessary distress”.
Hundreds of Chinese tourists have also cancelled their planned holidays to New Zealand, tourism operators say, while others have extended their stay to avoid the risk of catching the illness back home.
The ministry of health said authorities are taking the outbreak “extremely seriously” with the ministry’s director general of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, saying health departments are well-prepared, but the risk of a sustained outbreak in New Zealand remains low.
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Chris Weston, head of research at the online trading company Pepperstone in Melbourne, Australia, said there was “no doubt” the virus was going to have an impact on the world’s second biggest economy.
“The question is how dramatic the impact will be and what will be the ramifications on the global economy and demand in general,” he said a short time ago.
“What we are trying to understand is the economic impact shutting transport links and imposing strict travel controls in Beijing and Shanghai, as well as effectively quarantining 14 cities and millions of people will have.
The situation was complicated by the lack of understanding about how the virus is spreading, making it “very hard to comprehend just how bad it is, or how much worse it can get”.
The economic and financial impacts of the virus are beginning to bite. After heavy losses on Asian, European and US losses on Monday, the Australian stock market – closed on Monday for the Australia day holiday – has suffered a 1.7% fall this morning. The Australian economy is heavily exposed to any economic disruption in China so the ASX200 index is a decent proxy to watch for how investors are reading the outbreak. The Aussie dollar is also used as a proxy for China and it has duly dipped to its lowest for nearly two months at US67.6c.
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