New Zealand’s borders are likely to remain closed for much of the year as health officials assess global vaccine launches, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned on Tuesday.
Ardern said the occurrence of New Zealand’s first case of weekend community broadcast in more than two months shows the danger Covid-19 poses to a nation celebrated for its response to the coronavirus.
She said her government will not reopen its borders, which have been closed to everyone but returning citizens since last March, while the pandemic raged across the world.
“Given the risks in the world around us and the uncertainty surrounding a vaccine roll out globally, we can expect our borders to be affected for much of this year,” she told reporters.
Still, Ardern said New Zealand will continue to pursue “travel bubbles” with Australia and the Pacific island nations, which have also largely managed to keep the virus away or contain it.
Plans to open a travel bubble by the end of March have been challenged when Australia put an end to quarantine-free kiwifruit in response to the recent case of community transmission.
Ardern said the case – a 56-year-old New Zealander who recently returned from Europe – was “well under control” and criticized Australia for reintroducing quarantine for New Zealanders.
The center-left leader said she expressed her feelings in a phone call Monday with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“If we are to enter a trans-Tasmanian travel bubble, we need to give people confidence that they will not see border closings in very short term in incidents that we believe can be well managed domestically,” she said.
Canberra officials said Monday the restrictions were being imposed on New Zealanders “out of caution”.
New Zealand Health Minister Chris Hipkins said 15 close contacts of the infected woman had tested negative for the virus, which has been identified as the more contagious South African variant.
He said investigators were looking into how the woman became infected during her two-week quarantine, including the possibility that she spread via the hotel’s air conditioning.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)