New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has signaled that authorities may maintain border closures through 2021 and linked the decision to the progress of the coronavirus vaccination campaign, which has yet to get underway. Ardern stressed that a sufficient number of people must be vaccinated before the borders are reopened and added that this “will take time,” before adding that the first covid-19 vaccine will be approved by the authorities in February.
He also described as “unwelcome” the case of coronavirus detected on Sunday in the country, the first in the last two months, and stressed that it is proof that coronavirus is a “complicated virus,” but stressed that the government is prepared to deal with the situation.
For his part, the minister in charge of the response to the pandemic, Chris Hipkins, has revealed that the vaccination campaign will start with front-line workers against the coronavirus, according to the newspaper ‘The New Zealand Herald’. “These brave people have been protecting our country from this pandemic for the past year and protecting them and those who live with them is a priority for us,” she said. Ardern detailed that this process will take two to three weeks, after which the next phase will follow.
First community case in more than two months
New Zealand authorities on Monday confirmed their first community case of coronavirus in more than two months, according to TVNZ. Chris Hipkins explained that it was a 56-year-old woman who had been infected with the South African variant, although he assured that her closest contacts had tested negative. The woman, who had returned to New Zealand on December 30, tested positive after two weeks under quarantine and had tested negative on two previous occasions. So far, no further local infections have been reported, so the authorities believe that the source of the infection could be in the isolation facilities themselves.
In this regard, the authorities were trying to rule out whether the virus had spread through the ventilation system of these facilities. Health Minister Ashley Bloomfield said that some 15 people were being traced as possible contacts of the infected woman.
The confirmation of the case led Australia to immediately suspend the opening of borders for a period of 72 hours. Thus, all persons arriving in New Zealand since January 14 must either isolate themselves or remain at home until they test negative. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has asserted that she has “confidence” in the systems and protocols in place and has accepted that it is up to the Australian government to “manage its own borders”.