The Black Caps are still waiting on whether they can be vaccinated for Covid-19 before departure to England in May.
New Zealand Cricket has confirmed its chief executive David White raised the possibility of players receiving pre-tour Covid-19 vaccinations with Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield after Sunday’s Twenty20 international.
Hipkins said he would take more detailed proposals on the national significance category to cabinet in the coming weeks. “It will be a relatively small group of people and the bar to access a vaccine under those criteria will be a very high one,” he said.
First up, a group of eight Black Caps cricketers and several coaches are scheduled to leave for the Indian Premier League in the coming weeks, and most likely will receive their vaccine in India before that tournament starts behind closed doors on April 9.
That group, which includes Black Caps captain Kane Williamson, will continue on to England in late May or early June and join their team-mates who travel from New Zealand.
“We understand there have been discussions about all players, support staff and officials involved in the IPL being vaccinated, but have nothing more concrete than that,” NZC public affairs manager Richard Boock said.
He insisted no pressure was applied, and that Bloomfield and Robertson were guests of NZC.
“The Government has played a major role in creating an environment in which international sport can be played in New Zealand, and NZC and its players were keen to pass on their gratitude for this,” Boock said in a statement.
“The suggestion NZC asked for the players or the team to be ‘prioritised’ [for a vaccine] is incorrect and mischievous – it did nothing of the sort.
“David simply inquired about the possibility of players being vaccinated before they departed for overseas commitments. We haven’t received a definitive response to this – just that it will be considered.”
Bangladesh’s cricket team received vaccinations via their Government in February, before departing for New Zealand.
Captain Tamim Iqbal and team-mates completed their 14 days of managed isolation in Christchurch on Wednesday, and after all players and management tested negative they headed to Queenstown for a training camp and intra-squad matches ahead of next Saturday’s ODI opener against the Black Caps in Dunedin.
New Zealand coach Gary Stead said he was keen for players and staff to be vaccinated before they left the country in May. Later in the year the Black Caps are scheduled to tour Bangladesh and Pakistan, before the Twenty20 World Cup in India starting in October.
“People want to be vaccinated, yes that’s a natural thing when there’s a pandemic going on around the world,” Stead said on Tuesday.
“But that ultimately isn’t our decision, it’s something the Government will decide and I’m not sure around IPL teams if they’re going to vaccinate teams when they get there or not. I’m guessing they probably will.”
It is one year on Saturday since the Black Caps last played a match overseas, when their one-day international against Australia in Sydney went ahead behind closed doors. The tour was abandoned the next day, March 14, amid the global spread of Covid-19.
Stead said of his team’s safety on the road: “The IPL is something that everyone is looking at for the World Cup further down the track, so I’d expect every opportunity to keep people safe will be absolutely paramount.
“The UK and England played a number of series in their last summer and I’m sure they’re confident in their biosecure protocols.
“We haven’t had to travel as a team yet so that’s something new and different for us, and we’ll have to learn on the job, but we are looking forward to getting away as a team and what’s in front of us is the very peak of what you can get to in international sport. There is definitely that excitement.”