New Zealand says Apec 2021 will go virtual to stem virus

Foreign Minister Winston Peters (centre) says holding the summit online is a ‘pragmatic’ response to the crisis. (Reuters pic)

WELLINGTON: The annual Apec summit of Asia-Pacific leaders will be virtual next year to avoid travel risks associated with the global coronavirus pandemic, 2021 hosts New Zealand said Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters said holding the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit online, instead of in Auckland, was a “pragmatic” response to the crisis.

“Covid-19 has seriously impacted how we conduct international diplomacy,” he said in a statement.

“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.”

More than 20,000 people were expected to visit New Zealand for the 21-nation summit in November 2021 and numerous lead-in meetings.

“If we had hosted an in-person Apec we would have seen thousands of people entering NZ from late 2020 onwards, some from Covid-19 hotspots,” Peters said.

“We simply couldn’t guarantee these people would be able to enter New Zealand without being quarantined.”

The decision to go virtual also eases a logistical headache for organisers, who were struggling to find sufficient hotel rooms in Auckland after construction of the planned venue was delayed by a huge fire in October last year.