2 Jun 2021

Covid-19 vaccines arrive in Niue to begin five-week full rollout

5:27 pm on 2 June 2021

Niue's first delivery of Covid-19 vaccines has arrived and the small number of inoculations will be used to vaccinate the vaccinators and other key people.

A generic picture of a vaccine, needle.

Niue's High Commissioner Fisa Igilisi Pihigia said the vaccine delivery was a long time coming (file image). Photo: 123RF

A much larger delivery will arrive next Wednesday, enabling the wider vaccine roll-out to begin.

This has made New Zealand and Niue officials optimistic about the possibility of the island nation being next in line to join the travel bubble.

Niue has remained completely untouched by the pandemic, with no cases or deaths from Covid-19, but that did not diminish the significance of Wednesday's delivery.

New Zealand Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio said it was a monumental occasion for the Pacific nation of about 1200 people.

"It's significant, they have generally been Covid free and they want to be able to continue protecting their population in order to begin rebuilding their economy," Sio said.

"Niue has really been adamant that they want to vaccinate their population before the opening of a two-way border. And that's what we're working with them now to ensure."

Niue's High Commissioner Fisa Igilisi Pihigia said it was a long time coming.

"It's good news for Niue so we can edit those layers of protection for the people and prepare for quarantine-free travel," Pihigia said.

Sio said New Zealand's help was key to getting the programme off the ground.

"They had a choice of whether to receive vaccines directly from [World Health Organisation] as part of the Covax facility or receive it from us. They chose to receive it from us. So we've been working along this on a regular, ongoing engagement," he said.

New Zealand's Pacific People's Minister, Aupito William Sio, and Niue High Commissioner Fisa Pihigia.

New Zealand's Pacific People's Minister, Aupito William Sio, and Niue High Commissioner Fisa Pihigia. Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Jamie Tahana

It was expected to take about five weeks for the entire island's eligible population to be fully immunised.

It would then be up to Niue's government to decide when and how quarantine-free travel would begin, Sio said.

"The premier has been very adamant that they like the New Zealand strategy of the best economic response is a strong health response and, therefore, they believe that vaccinating their population is the first stepping stone towards opening up.

"But basically, it is up to them to decide this and those discussions are still happening at the officials level."

Pihigia said the nation only had the capacity to isolate about 30 people at a time, meaning a travel bubble would allow many Niueans who had been stuck in New Zealand for over a year to visit family and friends.

"Also the tourism industry - that's the main industry in Niue - at the moment is hit hard. [Covid-19] really has affected Niue because of the tourism-related revenue that the government and also the locals used to receive. So it is significant that the borders open."

It would still take a couple of weeks following the vaccinations for an official announcement about the bubble to be made.

Pihigia remained optimistic that quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Niue would arrive soon.

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