New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that her country’s borders are likely to remain closed to the world for most of 2021, amid uncertainty about the launch of vaccines against the Corona virus.
“We can expect our borders to be affected for most of this year,” Ardern said during a press conference today, Tuesday in Wellington.
She added: “In order for travel to start, we need one of the two things, firstly, confidence that vaccination means that you do not transmit the Corona virus to others, and we do not know this yet, and the second is we need to vaccinate a sufficient number of our population. Both possibilities will take some time.”
The New Zealand Prime Minister was pessimistic about the possibility of a safe travel zone with Australia anytime soon. She said that while the talks would continue, “it seems more difficult at the individual country level.”
Australia allowed New Zealanders to travel without quarantine last year, but suspended that this week when New Zealand reported a new infection with the Coronavirus after months of not recording any infection.
Ardern expressed her disappointment with Australia’s decision, saying that the case was related to a woman who tested positive after leaving managed isolation “under control.”
New Zealand’s success in fighting the virus has allowed restrictions to be lifted and its economy moving again, much sooner than initially expected, but closed borders are wiping out its tourism industry.
While the government announced that it expects to grant approval for a Pfizer vaccine next week, Ardern said that mass vaccination will not begin until the middle of the year, and that it has been taking a “conservative” approach to allowing foreigners to enter the country again.