Coronavirus is growing': Jacinda Ardern rejects calls to open New Zealand borders

Vincent Wood
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a press conference at Parliament: Getty Images

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has hit out at calls from her political opponents to reopen the nation’s borders - calling the suggestion “frankly dangerous”.

The pacific island nation has been able to keep its coronavirus case number dramatically low after introducing lockdown measures early - with only 22 instances of the virus currently confirmed in the country and one hospitalisation.

The result has been a return to normality for much of the country - including mass attendance at sports events and a full return of the nation’s hospitality sector.

However travel outside the country remains restricted after the nation’s clean bill of health was disrupted by two New Zealanders who had returned to the country from the UK having visited a dying relative. At the time neither of them had been tested.

Speaking at a daily press conference, Ms Ardern said: “I’ve seen today and across the past week calls for our borders to be opened to the world a world where the virus is escalating not slowing and not even peaking in some countries yet, where cases exceed 10 million globally and deaths half a million, where countries are extending and returning to lockdown.

“All of the while, we get to enjoy weekend sport, go to restaurants and bars, our workplaces are open, and we can gather in whatever numbers we like.”

Referring to international efforts to reopen borders - including the European Union - Ms Ardern warned her nation would have to wait to follow suit.

However the Labor party leader added that she was in discussions with Australia to potentially offer travel agreements to neighbouring Australia on a state by state basis depending on the extent of their lockdown measures and testing regimes.

“While the EU is looking to open its doors to a handful of countries including our own, I’m reminded that New Zealanders returning from trips off shore were part of the spread of the virus in New Zealand in the first place.

“There is a time in the future where New Zealand will be opening our borders but to suggest that time is now when the virus is getting worse is frankly dangerous “.

The comments appear to follow on from criticism by her main political rival - leader of the New Zealand national party Todd Muller.

“A strategy that says we stay completely closed to everybody for the next 12-18 months is simply untenable," Mr Muller told reporters on Monday.

"We won't recognise this country in terms of economic impact if that is our reality in 12-18 months' time."

However much of the country appears to stand by the cautious view put forward by the PM.

A recent poll conducted by Stickybeak found that while 24 per cent of people thought reciprocal travel arrangements should be set up with pacific Islands, and 29 per cent felt the same should be true of Australia, almost 47 per cent said such ‘travel bubbles’ should not be considered at this time.

The clash in views between the National’s leader and the PM comes fewer than 100 days ahead of the next general election.

Mr Muller has been able to make slight polling gains for his party after taking on its leadership less than two months ago due to a dramatic decline in support for his predecessor.

However the most recent polling makes a second term for Ms Ardern look likely - according to a recent 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll which suggested she is on track to win the nation’s first majority since it moved to a system of proportional representation in 1996

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