Most international travelers should not expect to visit New Zealand in 2021.
That is because the country, which this week confirmed its first coronavirus community case in more than two months, will keep its borders closed as the pandemic continues around the world.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand will attempt to create stringent travel arrangements only with neighboring countries.
"Given the risks in the world around us and the uncertainty of the global rollout of the vaccine, we can expect our borders to be impacted for much of this year," Ardern said at a Tuesday news conference.
"In the meantime, we will continue to pursue travel bubbles with Australia and the Pacific, but the rest of the world simply poses too great a risk to our health and our economy to take the risk at this stage."
The prime minister said medical authorities could approve a COVID-19 vaccine as early as next week, Medicines regulator Medsafe was working toward granting provisional approval for the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine.
That was good news for a nation that saw a Kiwi test positive for the more contagious South African variant Saturday.
International travel to New Zealand will not resume until there is confidence vaccinated people cannot pass on the virus to others, or when enough of the nation's population has been inoculated so people can safely re-enter the country.
In either case, Ardern said time will be needed.
New Zealand's recent COVID-19 variant case involved a 56-year-old woman who returned from Europe on Dec. 30. She tested positive after leaving a two-week mandatory quarantine in Auckland.
As a result of that positive test, Australia immediately suspended its quarantine-free arrangements with New Zealand for three days, meaning Kiwis arriving in Australia during that period would need to enter hotel quarantine for 14 days.
New Zealand officials expected the first vaccines to arrive by the end of the year's first quarter. Then, months will be required to inoculate the population.
The country virtually eliminated the novel coronavirus' presence thanks to a severe lockdown and geographical isolation.
New Zealand reported two new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, but the positive tests emanated from managed isolation facilities. No new community cases were reported.
The country of 5 million people reported 65 active cases, with 1,934 confirmed cases and 25 deaths overall.
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