“Given the stakes in the world around us and the uncertainty about launching the vaccine globally, we can expect our borders to be affected for most of this year,” Ardern said at a press conference.
To resume travel, authorities either needed to trust that those who had been vaccinated did not pass Covid-19 to others, which is not yet known, or that there is a sufficient number of residents needing to be vaccinated so that people can safely return to New Zealand.
Both possibilities, she said, will take time.
“In the meantime, we will continue to follow the travel bubbles with Australia and the Pacific, but the rest of the world simply poses such a great risk to our health and our economy that we cannot take the risk at this point.”
The recent societal situation, for a woman who returned to New Zealand on December 30 and tested positive for the virus in South Africa after leaving the mandatory two-week quarantine, led Australia to immediately suspend a travel bubble with New Zealand for 72 hours.
Ardern said the nation’s pharmaceutical organization, Medsafe, is working to grant interim approval for the vaccine for Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE.
The first vaccines are set to arrive in New Zealand by the end of the first quarter, but the government wanted everything to be in place with early arrival.
The strict lockdown and geographical isolation have helped the country of 5 million people virtually eliminate the novel coronavirus within its borders.
New Zealand reported two new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation facilities on Tuesday and there were no new community cases. The country has 65 active cases, 1,934 confirmed cases, and 25 deaths.
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