Covid vaccinations ‘small step in long journey’: New Zealand

WELLINGTON (AFP) – New Zealand launched its Covid-19 vaccination programme yesterday 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 vaccine drive begins just days after authorities lifted a coronavirus lockdown in Auckland which confined most of the city’s residents to their homes for three days.

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

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.

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