Dendrobium Jacinda Ardern: Singapore names pink orchid after Prime Minister to mark first visit since COVID-19 pandemic

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's first post-pandemic international trip got off to a rocky start with three members of the delegation testing positive for COVID-19. 

Although they were old infections, the three delegation members won't be able to travel to Japan, but it didn't get in the way of a busy first day in Singapore. 

It was the grandest of welcomes for Ardern on Tuesday in Singapore at The Istana, the official residence of the President of Singapore, after two years locked in due to the pandemic. 

A delicate pink orchid native to Singapore was named after Ardern to mark the occasion: The Dendrobium Jacinda Ardern

"I welcome Prime Minister Ardern back to Singapore," Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said during a joint press conference. "Very happy that she's made Singapore her first overseas visit since the onset of COVID-19."

At the joint press conference, both Ardern and Lee committed to continue to encourage China to acknowledge the impact Russia's invasion of Ukraine was having on the world.

Back on home soil, the Government is continuing to put what pressure it can on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Sanctions against 18 Russian financial institutions - including eight of its largest banks - have just been rolled out. It means approximately 80 percent of Russia's total banking assets are now subject to New Zealand sanctions. 

Behind the scenes, COVID loomed large - a reality of pandemic diplomacy. 

"The whole world is in a transition right now," Ardern told reporters. "I'm up to my third test as part of this trip. The world isn't quite back to normal."

On Monday night, almost the entire 50-strong delegation got super-sensitive PCR nasal tests. The Prime Minister was included as it's a requirement to get into Japan. 

I'm very pleased to confirm that I have returned a negative PCR test and will be travelling on to Tokyo," Ardern said. 

Three weren't so lucky: two from the business group and one from the Defence Force air crew. They tested positive for old infections. They'll be left behind but the vibe is still high about actually being overseas. 

"It is fantastic to be able to pick up again what has previously been such an important part of this job and that is promoting New Zealand's interests abroad," Ardern said. 

COVID-19 is not the only 'C' word at front of mind at the face-to-face chief-to-chief meeting. China comes up too. 

"It's fair to say we are living in an increasingly complex part of the world and have been for some time," Ardern said. 

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is another important topic. 

"There is pressure on our rules-based order," Ardern said. "It has been threatened and disrupted and upended by the actions of Russia."

The trip is as much about building relationships as it is about promoting New Zealand. The Prime Minister used her first day to expand the Working Holiday Scheme to let more Singaporean backpackers in. 

Ardern said it's to "encourage people to come and visit our part of the world because we are open for business".