The Covid-19 Response Minister says there is "never any room for complacency or for boasting" after New Zealand's handling of the pandemic was ranked number one against 97 other countries, according to research by an international policy think tank.
However, it comes as New Zealand investigates two positive Covid-19 cases of returnees who had already completed their managed isolation stay, in addition to the Northland community case.
The Lowy Institute, based in Sydney, ranked the average performance of 98 countries in the 36 weeks after their 100th Covid case. New Zealand came out on top, followed by Vietnam, Taiwan and Thailand. Australia was eighth, the UK 66th and Brazil was last.
Of New Zealand's ranking, Hipkins said it was "very humbling to see those kind of things".
"I'm very proud of what New Zealand as a country has achieved up until this point and we can all be proud of that."
The result came as New Zealand grapples with Covid-19 cases that were confirmed after returnees had left managed isolation.
"As recent events have shown, there's never any room for complacency or for boasting. We've got to remain vigilant, we've got to respond quickly when we need to," Hipkins said.
"It's too early to be drawing any type of conclusive result on how we've done," he said, adding he was "reluctant to make any kind of judgment on New Zealand's response until this is all over".
Today, Australia extended its ban on quarantine-free travel from New Zealand due to the Covid cases from returnees at the Pullman Hotel.
Australia’s acting chief medical officer, professor Michael Kidd, said a major factor behind the decision was that the cases were the South African variant.
The Lowy report also found countries with populations of fewer than 10 million people consistently outperformed larger countries throughout 2020 in responding to Covid-19.
"In general, countries with smaller populations, cohesive societies, and capable institutions have a comparative advantage in dealing with a global crisis such as a pandemic," the report stated.