WELLINGTON: New Zealand’s cricketers could be eligible for early Covid-19 vaccines after the government laid out its priority list with competing in events of “national significance” among the criteria. The process will begin on March 31, so it will come too late for the players heading to the IPL but is likely to include those in the squad to tour England from late May. Chris Hipkins, the minister responsible for New Zealand’s response to the global health crisis, said people would be eligible to jump the queue for the vaccine on compassionate grounds or to compete in major global events. The latter category would include Olympians, Paralympians and the cricketers, who will be travelling to the UK to play India in the final of the World Test Championship in June along with two other Tests against England. “The key yardstick here is people travelling in an official capacity and ensuring their participation is in our national interest,” Hipkins told reporters in Wellington. “They will have to make an application and it will depend on what sort of events they are participating in, to whether they fit the national interest criteria. “But certainly, your expectation is that the Olympians would be eligible under the national interest criteria and a national sports team participating in a significant event would also meet those criteria.” There was some controversy earlier this month when Dr Ashley Bloomfield, the Director-General of Health attended the final T20I between New Zealand and Australia in Wellington, where he spoke with NZC officials and spent time in the dressing room after the match. David White, the NZC chief executive, raised the issue of vaccines for players before upcoming travel and Bloomfield said he would take the conversation back to the government for consideration but both parties insisted there was no direct lobbying. However, Bloomfield later donated the value of the tickets to a Wellington charity. “It is important that I avoid any potential for perception of a conflict of interest or personal benefit,” he said. New Zealand has been one of the most successful countries at containing the virus and started the second round of its vaccine rollout for border and quarantine workers last week. International matches throughout the season have mostly been played in front of crowds except for a set of games in Wellington earlier this month involving Australia and the England women’s team when the alert level around the country was raised.