WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – New Zealand on Tuesday canceled its plans to hold a large gathering of American and Asian leaders next year because of the corona virus, opting instead for a virtual summit.
New Zealand was scheduled to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Auckland. The event is said to have brought thousands of people to the country year-round, culminating in a leader week in November 2021.
APEC focuses on trade issues, although it also provides an opportunity for world leaders to catch up. The 21 members include the US, China, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Indonesia and Hong Kong.
Last year, Chile canceled the APEC leaders’ meeting due to violent protests against the government. This year Malaysia organizes virtual APEC meetings.
New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said it was necessary to cancel next year’s summit now for planning and security reasons.
“There were people who would come months and months in advance, all caught by the COVID-19 situation,” Peters said. “So we had to accept the simple fact that we couldn’t do it, except because of the mechanism we’re going to use it now. ‘
New Zealand is praised worldwide for its health response to the virus. After a strict shutdown, the nation of 5 million people has eliminated the transfer of communities, at least for the time being. The 22 active cases are all quarantined travelers who have returned from virus hotspots, including the US, India, Pakistan, and Britain.
New Zealand has closed its borders to almost everyone except returning citizens and residents, who have to remain in quarantine for two weeks.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said he understood the reasoning behind the cancellation.
“I am disappointed that Auckland will not physically house APEC, but the health of our country should be paramount,” Goff said in a statement.
New Zealand was already having problems with an expensive convention center that it was building to host the summit. Employees accidentally set fire to the roof in October. It burned for several days, sent a harmful plume of smoke into the city and forced organizers to find alternative locations.
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