New Zealand on Tuesday said it would be hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit online rather than in-person due to restrictions posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said disruptions caused by COVID-19, including border restrictions, were a major factor in deciding to move the summit, set to be held in November, online.
“Given the current global environment, planning to have such a large volume of high-level visitors in New Zealand from late 2020 onwards is impractical,” Peters said in a statement. “For planning and security reasons, we had to make a call on our APEC hosting now. It wasn’t practical to wait for many more months till a clearer picture of the virus’ spread emerged.”
Peters said that officials couldn’t guarantee if thousands of people entered the country from late 2020 onwards, including some from potential COVID-19 hotspots, that they would be able to enter without being quarantined.
APEC is a regional economic forum that was established in 1989. Its 21 members include China, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the U.S.
Chile cancelled last year’s APEC leader’s meeting because of violent anti-government protests, according to The Associated Press.
New Zealand has largely mitigated the spread of the coronavirus, reporting a total of 1,528 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 22 deaths. As of Tuesday morning, the nation had just 22 active cases, according to health department data.
New Zealand has restrictions in place preventing foreign nationals from crossing its borders. Exemptions are provided to Australian citizens and air crews.