Auckland-Rarotonga travel bubble only weeks away

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

The formation of an Auckland-Rarotonga travel bubble with no 14-day quarantine restrictions is only weeks away. 

This follows online Joint Ministerial Forum talks held between Cook Islands Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown and Aotearoa counterpart Winston Peters yesterday.

Brown announced it would be a gradual progression, starting with the relaxing of the 14-day quarantine for essential arrivals to New Zealand, such as health referrals, judicial officials, contractors & specialist workers, and will eventually extend to tourists.

“We’re quite happy to work on a step-by-step process. Let’s look at the essential travel first, by extension that should include tourists,” he says.

“Because there is no difference between a person who needs to go for medical or a contractor who needs to return for his work, than tourists that need to go back home. “

Brown says Winston Peters was supportive of the move.

“He couldn’t see any reason why we couldn’t start that right now. There are no risks associated with it particularly since we’ve lifted our quarantine restrictions on arrivals from New Zealand.”

“We have no Vovid-19 here so the need to have 14 days going to New Zealand is basically redundant.”

Peters' concerns over border security and Covid-19 medical preparedness were also discussed,d with New Zealand approving millions of dollars more in aid.

“I’m very happy to announce that New Zealand has approved a further $15 million toward the Cook Islands. This is over and above the $7 million it gave us in March. 

“This will go towards areas of strengthening border control, assisting our Covid-19 prevention.”

Brown says New Zealand will look to send another team there to do an audit of medical and covid prevention measures, which he welcomed to offer more assurance to locals and New Zealand travellers.

There were also talks on dedicated streaming of passengers at Auckland airport.

“We’ve had discussions with Auckland airport and Air New Zealand about things such as dedicated arrival gates for Cook Islands arrivals, New Zealand arrivals so that there is no mingling with other passengers from other airlines or other flights.”

If community transmission does emerge in New Zealand, the Cook Islands will close its borders.

Airlines will accommodate those who’ve booked tickets, so that they won’t lose their money.