Coronavirus - what you need to know

In January 2020, Chinese authorities confirmed a new type of coronavirus, known as 2019-nCoV, which affects the respiratory system and can be transmitted person to person. First diagnosed in Wuhan China, it has now been reported in other cities in China and an increasing number of other countries including Japan, Thailand, Korea, USA, Australia and Hong Kong.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) advises there are currently no confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV in Aotearoa New Zealand, but while the likelihood of importing a case is high, the risk of an ongoing outbreak in New Zealand remains low. MoH is monitoring the situation closely and if any further public health measures are needed, they will be the point of authority on this. As the situation regarding novel coronavirus can evolve rapidly, we recommend visiting the MoH website for the latest updates and developments, including current status, health and travel advice. For an update on the global situation, please visit the the World Health Organisation website.

Impact on business

There is a possibility that this new strain of coronavirus could impact on business and business practices in New Zealand, with the potential for it to become a greater issue as the situation evolves. It is also anticipated that this will impact local tourism and trade. In the event of a pandemic, there are a number of factors that may impact on your ability to keep your business running, so it is important to consider these as part of your business continuity planning.

It is important that individuals, workplaces and Government plan for a pandemic so we can:

  • Minimise the impact of the disease on the people of New Zealand;
  • Enable society to continue to function as normally as possible during and after a pandemic; and
  • Minimise the impact on our economy.

The Ministry of Health has put together a guide on the potential impact of a pandemic on business, what businesses may experience and areas to plan for. It is important to consider these factors and plan for how they may affect your ability to run your business.

Areas to plan for include:

  • How you will maintain your essential services or activities with high numbers of staff absence over an extended period;
  • What essential goods and services you rely on and how you will manage any disruptions to supply;
  • How you can implement alternative work practices in your workplace (for example, social distancing measures, remote working capability);
  • What services will need additional support to meet a surge in demand (for example, IT support services); and
  • How you can protect your workers and reduce the risk of spread of the pandemic influenza virus in your workplace.
Read more about pandemic preparedness on the MoH website.

Disruption planning

The key is to be prepared, which is why we are working closely with businesses to ensure they have planning in place – not just for this issue, but any kind of business interruption. Please click here to view our resource. 

If you would like to discuss the impact on your business or would like help in reviewing your emergency plans and procedures, please get in touch with The Chamber’s Employment Relations Advisors (details at the end of the page).

Impact on export/import sector

As an exporter or importer, including businesses and organisations in the tourist sector, please contact our Business and International Trade Advisor Shirley van Waveren if you have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. As part of our BusinessNZ/ExportNZ networks, we are able to directly engage with government Ministers and departments to communicate concerns and trends to ensure government policy is able to respond accordingly. Shirley is also able to provide advice and support on any organisation-specific concerns or questions, and connect you with other agencies or experts where needed.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) has also launched an information page on its website to help exporters affected by the outbreak. The page brings together information from NZTE, Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Ministry for Primary Industries to enable exporters to stay up-to-date on the latest developments and plan, prepare and mitigate any potential impact from the outbreak - visit

As the situation is evolving, NZTE will update the page with confirmed information, to build a clear picture of the situation and determine what support may be needed. Exporters are encouraged to visit the page, which includes contact details to report any export issues.

Prevention in the workplace

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, employers have a legal duty to ensure the safety of employees while at work. In the context of this virus (and any others like it), this means taking measures to prevent both employees who are travelling to, or coming back from, affected areas from contracting the disease or allowing others in the workplace to contract it from an infected person. 

WHO advise people follow basic principles to reduce risk of the virus spreading. These are:
- Avoid close contact with people suffering acute respiratory infections
- Wash hands frequently, especially after contact with ill people or their environment
- Avoid close contact with sick farm animals or wild animals
- People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette: 
          o     Maintain distance
          o     Cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing
          o     Wash hands

The Ministry has also outlined a number of actions that businesses can take to minimise the spread of infectious diseases in the workplace - read more here.

As different businesses and organisations may be impacted in different ways, if you would like to discuss the implications of this advice, please get in touch with our team directly on the details below.

For more information and advice, please contact The Chamber’s Employment Relations Advisors on 03 366 5096, or email:
- Keith Woodroof, 
- Melicia Clough,
- Megan Te Kahu, 

Further information:
- Canterbury District Health Board coronavirus advice - Ministry of Health coronavirus advice - Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade China travel advice
- World Health Organisation global situation