On Friday the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus epidemic in China now constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.
The organisation said there had been 98 confirmed cases in 18 countries outside of China, including nine in Australia but no deaths. The death toll in China stood at 170 on Friday.
Oceania Dairy general manager Richard Hickson said 10 Oceania staff based in Glenavy, South Canterbury, travelled to China for New Year celebrations. The new year fell on January 25 this year, lasting about 15 days.
Hickson said staff returning from China could only come back to work after 14 days of self-isolation.
“Oceania Dairy Limited has advised its staff that the company has put in place a policy for any person returning from China,” Hickson said.
“Oceania staff returning from China will be required to stay at home for the period currently advised by the Ministry of Health [MOH] and then obtain a medical certificate from a doctor clearing them to return to work.”
He said the dairy had a business continuity plan in place for all types of events including a possible New Zealand outbreak of the coronavirus.
“As with a number of New Zealand companies, Oceania has increased advice to staff about practical measures they can take to maintain good health and hygiene.”
Fonterra managing director for co-operative affairs, Mike Cronin, said no employees from South Canterbury’s Studholme or Clandeboye operations had been affected by the virus, but preventative measures have been put in place.
“We have tracked and contacted all employees who have been travelling over the New Year period and they are safe and well,” Cronin said.
“As a precaution, we have restricted work-related travel to and from mainland China and we’re asking employees who have recently returned from mainland China to self-isolate for a period of 14 days.”
Cronin said the co-operative’s operations had not been impacted by the outbreak of coronavirus as yet.
“We are monitoring the situation closely. If there is a sustained drop in consumption in China, for example fewer people eating in restaurants, then that could have an impact on our sales.
“We’ll be watching GDT [Global Dairy Trade] results and our foodservice business over the coming month to get an indication.
“For our employees in China, we have extended the Chinese New Year holiday, in line with the Chinese government’s decision.”
A Timaru District Council spokesperson said the council was following MOH guidelines on what had to be done in case of a coronavirus outbreak.
“In the case of this becoming a problem we’ve got civil defence plans in place for a flu pandemic, which outlines a multi-agency approach, and it’s relevant in this case.
“We have our own business continuity plan for influenza pandemic (same precautions for coronavirus), which ensures council services can keep going in case of a flu (or effectively coronavirus) pandemic and the precautions we can proactively put in place.”
The spokesperson said the council also had a community action plan for influenza pandemic and “this is about how civil defence can support a MOH-led response to a pandemic”.