New Zealand could place the UK on its ‘no-fly’ travel list if Covid cases continue to soar after the country exits lockdown.
The Prime Minister told the UK the nation must “learn to live with” the virus and “we must reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from Covid” as he updated plans for ditching most measures, including face masks.
New Zealand leaders dismissed Mr Johnson’s approach as the UK’s plans were discussed in a press conference on Tuesday.
The country’s government, which has pursued a strict elimination strategy that has effectively sealed it off from much of the world throughout the pandemic, rejected his strategy outright.
According to The Guardian, the country’s Covid-19 response minister, Chris Hipkins, said: “That’s not something that we have been willing to accept in New Zealand.
“One of the things the UK government have been very clear about (is) that there will be a spike in cases, potentially thousands of cases a day. There will be more people dying.”
He added: “We are likely to see more incremental change than dramatic change where we wake up one morning and say: ‘We just go back to the way things were before Covid-19.’”
New Zealand’s director-general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, told the press conference on Wednesday the UK could be placed on a ‘no-fly’ list if cases grew out of control.
The country would be keeping a ‘close eye’ on UK case numbers – which topped 28,000 in the 24 hours to Tuesday.
When he was asked if that meant New Zealand could suspend flights from the UK, as it did when the delta variant began ripping through India in April, Mr Bloomfield confirmed countries’ risk status was reviewed weekly.
So far, 26 people have died from Covid-19 in New Zealand, which has a population of just over 5million.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been hailed internationally for her approach in locking down early and closing borders throughout much of the pandemic.
But she is under pressure at home as her government is accused by critics of a slow vaccine rollout.
Asked about the UK’s strategy, she told reporters different countries were taking different approaches, and her priority was to preserve New Zealand’s relatively Covid-free status.
New Zealand is likely to take up to the end of the year to vaccinate everyone eligible for a jab, Ms Ardern confirmed last month.
Around 1.2million doses have been administered so far, with roughly 500,000 people doubled-jabbed.
New Zealand and neighbour Australia are among a small number of countries on the UK’s travel ‘green list.’
However the two nations’ borders are already all but closed to Brit travellers.
New Zealand’s border controls already bar UK visitors from entering unless they are a Kiwi citizen or resident, with very few exemptions allowed.
All those who enter must quarantine for 14-days in one of the government’s managed isolation hotels at a price starting at £3,100 (£1,580).