The first group of Cook Islands residents have finally returned home to Rarotonga since becoming stuck in New Zealand due to the Covid-19 alert level 4 lockdown six weeks ago.
On the heavily-secured tarmac, the repatriates were welcomed with drums before being ushered onto awaiting buses.
Talitha Horn (Ngāpuhi, Waikato, Mitiaro, Aitutaki) says the welcome home for her parents is bittersweet.
“Very excited, a little bit overwhelmed, we’re really happy to have them back,” Horn says.
“A bit mamae, a little bit sad that we can’t physically see them but we know they’re here, and we know that they’re only two weeks away from our embraces. So we’re really, really, really excited.”
Talitha Horn. Photo/File
Despite the restrictions by Te Marae Ora requiring the public and families not to come into contact with their returning loved ones, many family members welcomed them from a distance, lining roads even before the repatriates were whisked off in buses to the Edgewater Resort & Spa.
The 130-strong group of returnees checked into the Edgewater to begin their final 14-day supervised quarantine.
Repatriates cannot leave the resort and will be tested before being allowed to return to their families.
If they break the requirements, they can face up to 12 months imprisonment or a $10, 000 fine.