Two-way quarantine-free travel bubble with Cook Islands takes off

By Te Ao - Māori News

Family reunions and tourism boosts are about to happen as the travel bubble with the Cook Islands opens today, as reported by Stuff.

This travel bubble will operate in a similar way to the Trans-Tasman bubble, which means free movement between the two countries without the need for quarantine and managed isolation.

Kia orana, Kuki Airani! Credit: Facebook/Air New Zealand

What you need to know

People who have been in New Zealand for a full 14 days prior to departing for the Cook Islands are eligible to travel quarantine-free. 

They must not have tested positive for Covid-19 in 14 days before departure, or be awaiting results from a test. If they have tested positive, written advice from a health practitioner confirming they are no longer infectious must be shown.

Normal immigration rules apply for travel to the Cook Islands. Travellers are allowed to stay for up to 31 days and must have evidence of a return ticket.

Temporary visa holders in New Zealand can travel to the Cooks so long as they meet all immigration requirements and can return to New Zealand.

Travellers moving under the quarantine-free travel arrangement aren’t required to undergo a pre-departure test.

What will happen if there's a Covid-19 case?

The Cook Islands have not recorded any cases of the coronavirus since Covid-19 began. If a case were to emerge, it will have to come from New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern explained the three phases of the bubble: Continue, pause and suspend. 

In the ‘continue’ phase, quarantine-free travel operates as planned as there is a low risk of transmission.

If cases emerge with an unknown source but a likely link to the border, short-term lockdowns may be imposed in affected areas, and flights to and from the Cooks will be paused. Travellers may be asked to get a pre-departure test, to self-isolate, or even go into managed isolation on arrival. From here, the situation may quickly escalate to the next phase, suspension.

Flights will be suspended if there’s a confirmed case with an unknown source, prompting a nationwide lockdown in either country. Flights will be stopped for an extended period but people needing to return to New Zealand or the Cook Islands will be managed to minimise the risk of spread. Again, travellers may be asked to get a pre-departure test, self-isolate or enter into managed isolation.

Unlike the Australian arrangement, travellers flying out of New Zealand with the bubble won’t be stranded. Ardern previously explained Kiwis in the Cooks won’t have to shelter in place, as they would in Australia. Rather they would be helped home.

“We view this as necessary to reduce pressure on the Cook Islands and minimise further spread of the virus.”