WELLINGTON, 24 FEBRUARY 2020 (RNZ PACIFIC) — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has confirmed the country’s China travel ban will be extended for another eight days.

Ardern said NZ was also exploring the possibility of an exemption to the travel ban for foreign tertiary students in mainland China.

She made the announcement after Cabinet ministers met this afternoon to decide whether to extend the ban on foreign travellers arriving from mainland China, which is due to expire tonight.

An initial two-week ban was put in place in early February as part of precautionary measures to try to keep the coronavirus out of the country. It was then extended for a further eight days.

The Chinese ambassador to New Zealand Wu Xi held a press conference last week to question why the restrictions had been imposed against the World Health Organisation’s advice.

Ardern had said the travel ban was not only geared to reducing the possibility of an outbreak in New Zealand, but was also serving to buy time so the health system was ready if cases were discovered.

Today’s decision comes as other countries scramble to deal with new deadly outbreaks, including Italy and South Korea.