Skip to main content

Keep calm and play your part to contain the virus, NZ’s first public COVID-19 meeting told

11 March, 2020

New Zealanders should try not to panic about COVID-19 and instead focus on ways they can limit its spread, Te Papa Hauora experts advised the country’s first coronavirus public meeting.

More than 150 people had the chance to direct questions to a panel of Canterbury-based experts at a Te Papa Hauora /Christchurch Health Precinct public meeting on Monday 9th March.

Te Papa Hauora brings together key Christchurch organisations involved in health research, education and innovation. The Universities of Canterbury and Otago, Ara Institute, and the Canterbury DHB are founding partners.

Keep calm and play your part to contain the virus NZ’s first public COVID-19 meeting told.JPG

International infectious disease specialist Professor David Murdoch led the Te Papa Hauora panel discussion, and he, as well as the other experts, urged people keep a sense of perspective. “There is no need to panic; there is reason for concern and to take it seriously, but we’ll get through it, we’ll manage it,” he said. Professor Murdoch also commented that a genuine spirit of cooperation was apparent within the global scientific community, and that the overall outlook for New Zealand residents seems hopeful.

Scientific information coming through seems to show fatality rates will resolve at around 1%, and the virus did not seem to be transmitted through the air, but rather through droplets from the nose and mouth, said Professor Murdoch.

The public at large as well at those at the Te Papa Hauora event would benefit from clear scientific information on the virus and how it might affect their families / whanau, Professor Murdoch said. Everyone can make a real difference by following simple but proven methods of limiting disease spread, including practising good hand hygiene and cough etiquette, and following instructions from the Government and health authorities if asked to self-isolate or stay away from gatherings. “The collective result of individuals each playing their part could make a big difference to the spread of COVID-19.” Professor Murdoch concluded.

Additionally, the measures taken by New Zealand’s government including border control, as well as that of the health professions, was depicted as robust and proactive. Professor Murdoch also praised the efforts of institutions such as Ara to work closely with other organizations. “Coordination of effort is really important in ensuring that community trust in the health system remains high. If you lose that trust when you’re wanting to get a community response, you’re in a bad way. So that was a major motivation for the Te Papa Hauora evening - getting people to have a little trust that there are well-connected people around the world, all aligning their activities with the best practice.”

Ara Institute has its own ‘Pandemic Plan 2020’, available online and also provides a continually-updated in-house resource. Chief Executive Tony Gray recently posted on the site “…We are aware that the level of concern which some people may be feeling may be increasing. The country remains ready and well prepared, and the situation is the same at Ara.”

To arrange an interview with Professor Murdoch in relation to the Te Papa Hauora event, email

Introduction, and COVID-19 presentation

Panellist's introductions

Videos of the Q and A session: