Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has "looked at the windows" of opportunity to visit Auckland as it enters its 12th week of COVID-19 lockdowns - but travelling to the Super City would mean she's out of action for five days.
The AM Show host Ryan Bridge asked Ardern on Monday if she would travel to Auckland after pressure from the Opposition to do so.
Ardern confirmed in Parliament last week it was something she was considering but had reservations - and reiterated those reservations on Monday.
"I have looked at the windows for me to get there… One of the limitations is that if I go to Auckland, I then am not allowed to come back here [to Parliament] for five days," Ardern told The AM Show. "I have many jobs and one of them is making sure I'm able to continue to lead our response. That means chairing our Cabinets, coming down and being available here to the media regularly, and if I go to Auckland then I'm out of action for five days.
"That's the consideration for me. I'll also keep in mind that a number of people I'd go to Auckland to meet, I meet regularly on Zoom… For me, it's just a decision about, 'How do I keep doing my job on behalf of Aucklanders whilst also having contact with them?'"
National Party leader Judith Collins has been challenging Ardern to visit Auckland for weeks. Collins asked the Prime Minister in Parliament last week when she would travel there to "see for herself the impact that 71 days of continuous lockdown is having on Aucklanders".
Under House Speaker Trevor Mallard's current rules, MPs are allowed to travel outside of Wellington - but must isolate for five days on their return before reentering Parliament.
Once Auckland's district health boards reach the 90 percent vaccination target rate, the Government's new 'traffic light' system kicks in.
While that system doesn't indicate whether Aucklanders will be able to travel outside of the Super City when it commences, Ardern said it wasn't something the Government planned to use long term. She has previously indicated Aucklanders would be able to travel across New Zealand for Christmas.
But the same won't apply to New Zealanders returning from overseas. They'll still have to enter a managed isolation facility, albeit for a shorter period, even if fully vaccinated.
Bridge asked Ardern why Aucklanders might be able to travel around New Zealand by Christmas - but fully vaccinated returnees from low-risk countries couldn't.
"The way that we are treating everyone who comes into New Zealand is the same as essentially what we're looking to treat contacts of a COVID case," Ardern said.
"When it comes to people who are coming in from overseas and the consistency of how we treat them, we are essentially looking to treat them as someone who has come into contact with COVID."
Ardern said compared with other countries, New Zealand's overall COVID-19 positivity rate was "well within the range of what the World Health Organization suggests" for keeping the virus under control - which is 5 percent. Newshub has asked the Ministry of Health what New Zealand's current positivity rate is.
"For instance, the many people seeking to return from the UK… Currently 50,000 cases a day, you can understand why we would treat an individual coming out of the UK… we essentially treat that person, particularly given the risk of travel… as if they've come into contact [with a case]," Ardern said.
The UK reported three consecutive days of over 50,000 daily COVID-19 cases on October 18, 19 and 20 but latest data shows infections are down 13.5 percent compared with the previous seven days. Britain recorded 38,009 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday (local time), with the weekly average at about 45,000.