New Zealand says COVID vaccinations ‘small step in long journey’

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New Zealand launched its COVID-19 vaccination programme Saturday but warned the initial rollout was only a small step in the long battle against the pandemic.

The Pacific nation has been widely praised for its handling of the coronavirus and has seen just 26 deaths in a population of five million.

The drive begins just days after authorities lifted a lockdown in Auckland which confined most of the city’s residents to their homes for three days.

“It’s the start of what we might call a new chapter but we still have a long way to go,” said Ashley Bloomfield, the country’s director-general of health.

The rollout marked a “small but important step in a long journey”, he added, with the initial focus on high risk citizens and those returning from overseas, along with border and quarantine workers.

Trans-Tasman neighbour Australia is to begin a similar rollout of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines to frontline workers from Monday.

Both nations have closed borders to almost all international travellers, severely hurting the tourism industry which is a key pillar of the economy.

Despite the vaccine program, the New Zealand government has said it was unlikely overseas tourists would be allowed to return this year.

Follow the latest news on the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

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New Zealand says COVID vaccinations ‘small step in long journey’ (2021, February 20)
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