Coronavirus: Ardern tells AM show evacuation of kiwi citizens on cruise ship possible

The AM Show 17/02/2020

The Prime Minister says the 11 Kiwis on a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Japan may be evacuated in a joint mission with Australia. 

Jacinda Ardern says she spoke with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday night about the possibility.  

"Australia's working through whether or not they may have an assisted evacuation or not," Ardern told The AM Show on Monday.

No final decisions have been made on their side.

"They have said though if they do they would be happy to support bringing home those 11 New Zealanders back to Australia [and] we would then transport them back to New Zealand."

Two Kiwis on board the Diamond Princess have so far tested positive to the virus. They have been taken to hospital in Japan, though 11 New Zealanders remain in quarantine on the boat, which is docked in Yokohama.

On Sunday, a further 70 people were confirmed to have the virus on the ship, bringing the total number of cases to 355. 

Around 3700 people were on the boat when it was placed in lockdown.

There have been almost 70,000 cases of coronavirus - which has officially been named COVID-19 - confirmed so far, the vast majority of which are in China. 

The death toll currently stands at 1670, with all but five of those deaths occurring in China. 

Ardern said if the New Zealanders on board were evacuated, they would be put into quarantine after returning home.

"We would then undertake the appropriate public health measures. Of course, they have been in quarantine, but questions are raised over how successful that has been, given the number on the ship."

Earlier this month, around 100 New Zealanders were evacuated from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak. 

In that case, the Government also worked with Australia, chartering an Air New Zealand plane to pull out citizens from New Zealand, Australia and various countries from the Pacific Islands.

Those evacuated were taken to a military facility at Whangaparaoa, where they remain in quarantine. 

So far no cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in New Zealand.

The AM Show / Newshub reporter James Fyfe