New Zealand said Tuesday the 2021 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, originally slated to be held in Auckland, will go ahead as a virtual summit due to border restrictions in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters said in a statement that while the regional economic forum's summit-related meetings are not scheduled until November 2021, Wellington had to decide if and how meetings would go ahead for planning and security purposes.

Banner bearing a logo of APEC. (Getty/Kyodo)

"Given the current global environment, planning to have such a large volume of high-level visitors in New Zealand from late 2020 onwards is impractical," Peters said.

"It wasn't practical to wait for many more months until a clearer picture of the virus' spread emerged."

In March, New Zealand was one of the first countries to effectively close its borders to international travelers to slow the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

The country's strict border restrictions are still in place, with even a proposed quarantine-free "travel bubble" between New Zealand and Australia yet to begin despite being floated for some time.

"If we had hosted an in-person APEC we would have seen thousands of people entering NZ from late 2020 onwards, some from COVID-19 hotspots. We simply couldn't guarantee these people would be able to enter New Zealand without being quarantined," Peters said.

APEC groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.