Jacinda Ardern touches down in Singapore on first overseas trip since COVID pandemic began

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern touched down in Singapore on Monday night on her first overseas trip since the COVID pandemic began. 

Ardern departed from Auckland's Whenuapai Airbase on Monday morning and flew via Cairns on the Royal New Zealand Air Force Boeing 757, and was greeted by Singapore Minister Indranee Rajah.

The Prime Minister is travelling with her fiancé Clarke Gayford, Trade Minister Damien O'Connor, ministry officials, a 12-strong business delegation and members of the media.

Everyone on the trip was required to complete a negative COVID test before departing Auckland and again on arrival in Singapore. They will complete daily rapid antigen tests while overseas.

Before departing Auckland, the Prime Minister thanked everyone on the trip for "giving up [their] precious time" to represent the country abroad.

She said she was "very excited" about heading overseas after more than two years without leaving New Zealand because of the pandemic. 

"One of the parts of the job, when you're auditioning for the role, that you don't anticipate being as significant is the foreign policy side," Ardern said.

"It is incredibly important for us as a trading nation - but also incredibly important at this point in our history where, now more than ever, our strategic relationships are crucial to us," Ardern said, speaking at Whenuapai before departure on Monday. 

Ardern is scheduled to spend two nights in Singapore before flying on to Japan for another three nights.

Jacinda Ardern touches down in Singapore on first overseas trip since COVID pandemic began
Photo credit: Newshub

In the coming days, Ardern will spend time with Singaporean and Japanese Prime Ministers, Lee Hsien Loong and Fumio Kishida, where she will discuss security, particularly China's influence in the Indo-Pacific region. 

She also has light-hearted activities planned including pavlova cutting, rugby promotions and a visit to the Japanese Cookie Time factory.