Don't plan on visiting New Zealand anytime soon. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Tuesday that the country's borders are likely to remain closed to most travelers for the majority of 2021. "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 during her first post-Cabinet press conference of the year, per Reuters. Health authorities have yet to approve a COVID-19 vaccine for use in New Zealand. Though Ardern said that was expected to happen as soon as next week, the general population will have to wait until mid-year for a jab, reports the Guardian. Ardern said the lifting of travel restrictions would depend on the number of completed vaccinations and evidence, yet to surface, showing vaccinated people don't transmit the virus.
"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," Ardern said. Australia suspended its travel bubble with New Zealand for 72 hours on Monday as the latter reported its first case of COVID-19 outside of quarantine since November. The 56-year-old woman exited a two-week quarantine on Jan. 13 before testing positive for the variant initially found in South Africa, per the Guardian. She may have contracted it from another traveler in quarantine, per the AP. New Zealanders and family members are permitted to enter the country, along with some skilled foreign nationals, if they agree to quarantine. The strategy appears to be working. New Zealand has counted only 2,290 cases and 25 deaths. (Read more New Zealand stories.)