Jacinda Ardern issues stark warning about NZ opening borders 'nothing is simple’

New Zealand: Expert warns of ‘nasty’ RSV outbreak

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The Prime Minister of New Zealand has always taken a tentative approach when it has come to Covid. Her decision to close her country’s borders for much of the pandemic has left many Brits stranded from their relatives and friends who live there. So what is New Zealand’s approach? When will they open their borders?

Ms Ardern’s strategy may be seen by many as being overly cautious, but it has allowed New Zealand to stay on top of most outbreaks and to limit their exposure to infectious new variants.

Boris Johnson has always insisted the success of the vaccine rollout in the UK allowed us to move out of lockdown restrictions earlier than the rest of the world.

With almost 60 percent of Brits being fully vaccinated compared to just more than 15 percent of New Zealanders it’s easy to see why Ardern’s approach has been far more tentative than Johnson’s.

In an interview with Stuff, a New Zealand news website, Jacinda Ardern insisted she would not impose milestones as her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison has done.

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Picture of the Australian and NZ Prime Ministers

Jacinda Ardern issues stark warning about NZ: The Australian and NZ leaders have different paths (Image: PA)

Picture of NZ's PM

Jacinda Ardern issues stark warning about NZ: just over 15 percent of New Zealanders have been fully jabbed (Image: PA)

The Australian Prime Minister said 70 percent of the eligible Australian population needs to be fully vaccinated before the country can start to unlock.

Australia is currently suffering from a spike in Covid infections forcing some parts into lockdown.

Jacinda Ardern told Stuff: “Looking over to Australia, rather than feeling lucky that you’re not in that position, it’s the same feeling as living on a street where your house is fine but your neighbour’s is on fire.

“The reality is that this thing isn’t going away, and it’s hard. It’s hard for businesses who need people, and it’s hard for people who want to see their family and friends.”

Map of green list countries

Jacinda Ardern issues stark warning about NZ: NZ is on the UK’s green list (Image: Express)

Next Thursday Ms Ardern is due to announce her plans for the second half of the “year of the vaccine”.

It is unlikely Ms Ardern will consider lifting all restrictions as the UK has done, and as Australia hopes to do, once a high enough proportion of New Zealanders are vaccinated.

On travel, Mr Ardern said: “One of the things I would say to anyone who thinks that the only reason to get vaccinated is to travel, that is wrong.

“At any point, Covid can enter into a border, even with all of the measures we’ve had we’ve seen it.

“We need you to be vaccinated to protect you while you are here.”


Picture of Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern issues stark warning about NZ: NZ’s borders are closed to Brits (Image: PA)

Ms Ardern’s approach remains somewhat of a mystery and New Zealanders appear to be none the wiser as to when they will regain their freedoms and ability to travel.

Ms Ardern has often said high vaccination rates create “options”.

But none of these options have been spelt out, leaving many in the dark.

Ms Ardern said: “So what is the path that we can choose that factors in a changeable virus but still keeps making progress for us – because I don’t think it’s a zero-sum game.

“When we are vaccinated we can still keep all the positives while removing some of the negatives. That’s the path I’m looking for.”

On what number of people would constitute “widely vaccinated” Ms Ardern said: “We’ve all the way through been saying consistently – because experts have been telling us – that oversimplifies things a bit, just a number oversimplifies things.”

Responding to the interviewer asking about New Zealander’s being able to plan for the future she added: “I don’t think we should assume that no one can plan anything in their life whatsoever whilst we sit and wait for an expert to tell us a percentage that’s going to make, at that point that something is going to… I think nothing in Covid has been as simple as that.”

New Zealand is currently on the UK’s green travel list meaning Brits can travel there without the need to quarantine upon their arrival back into the UK.

Despite this New Zealand continues to keep its borders firmly closed to Brits.

It remains unclear when Ms Ardern’s government will ease travel restrictions but her latest cautious tone hasn’t filled many with much hope.

Ms Ardern said she would prefer to have the option of saying goodbye to lockdowns before she considered lifting border controls.

She said: “I ask people: If you had a choice what would you want to get rid of first, the uncertainty of a really heavy level 3 or level 4 lockdown, versus a bit less friction at the border?”

William Murphy

William Murphy

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