This Travel Advisory is updated in accordance with published official information only.
Cook Islands travel bubble set to inflate on May 17
UPDATED ON: 03 May 2021 (NZ time)
Lorna Thornber and Siobhan Downes 17:16, May 03 202
First quarantine-free Air New Zealand flight from Rarotonga
A one-way travel bubble opened between the Cook Islands and Rarotonga in January, but soon New Zealanders are expected to be able to holiday there without going through ‘MIQ’ (video first published in January). …
Kiwis will be able to visit the Cook Islands without having to quarantine in either country from May 17.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the start date for the long-awaited two-way, quarantine-free travel bubble on Monday – two weeks before it is set to inflate.
“The Cook Islands are in a stronger position to prevent, detect and manage any potential Covid-19 outbreak, which means a two-way travel bubble can now proceed,” she said.
“A green travel zone between the Cooks and New Zealand will allow families to reconnect, commercial arrangements to resume, and tourism in the Cooks to kick off once again. This will all provide a boost to the Cook Island’s economy and help in the country’s recovery from the impacts of Covid-19.”
Ardern said the bubble arrangement is similar to the one New Zealand has with Australia.
However, if there is an outbreak of Covid-19 in the Cooks, Kiwis will be more likely to have to return to New Zealand straight away.
“As in the case with Australia, the bubble comes with a flyer beware caveat. If there is an outbreak in New Zealand, flights are likely to be paused. In addition to that, our plan if there is an outbreak in the Cooks is more explicit.”
Arden said the Government would take a “highly precautionary approach” to any outbreak in the Cooks.
“So rather than require everyone to shelter in place as we would in Australia, we would be more likely to get our people home. We view this as necessary to reduce pressure on the Cook Islands and minimise further spread of the virus.
Air New Zealand is set to fly to the Rarotonga two to three times a week from May 17 on Boeing 787-9 aircraft. From June 7 to 27, the airline will fly to the Cooks three to four times a week.
To be eligible to travel, customers will need to have been in New Zealand for at least 14 days. Screening questions will be asked at check-in and passengers will be required to wear face masks on board.
Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran predicted the Cook Islands will be popular with Kiwis looking “for a warm break and some R&R”.
“We know it’s a popular destination because in 2019, of the 446,000 Kiwis who took a trip to the Pacific Islands, almost 110,000 headed to Rarotonga,” he said.
Cook Islands Tourism Corporation for Australasia general manager Graeme West said Cook Islanders would welcome their first international visitors in more than a year “with open arms and big smiles”.
“Kiwis are always welcomed very warmly and I think this will be even more evident as Kiwis return to our tropical paradise. We’ll be doing everything possible to ensure people have a fantastic holiday. We’re ready to go and to showcase everything that we’re renowned for – our warm tropical weather, stunning natural beauty, friendliness and hospitality and our great food.”
UPDATED ON: 30 April 2021 (NZ time)
Covid 19 coronavirus: NZ-Cook Islands travel bubble tipped to start on May 16
An escape to the heat of the Cook Islands might just be around the corner – with a two-way travel bubble tipped to open up in a fortnight.
There is speculation in the Cooks that Sunday, May 16 (NZT) is understood to be the big day set to be announced by the Government after a Cabinet meeting this afternoon.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the announcement this afternoon would bring “ultimately good news” for both the New Zealand and the Cook Islands.New Zealand made up a large part of the island nation’s tourism and that this was a move the Government had been working on for some time, she said.
“We wanted to make sure when we do it, we got it right,” she told Newshub this morning.
“We didn’t want to run the risk of exporting (Covid-19) to the Cook Islands, which has been Covid-free.”
Cook Islands media have also reported that today’s announcement would reveal a two-way travel bubble opening up around May 15 – next Saturday (the Cooks are one day behind NZ time).
Air NZ already selling return flights
Private sector taskforce chairman Fletcher Melvin told the Cook Islands News publication that a Government source had confirmed that date.
Air New Zealand has flights to Rarotonga available from next Monday, May 10, with one of the cheapest return fares being $613.
Air New Zealand has flights to Rarotonga available from next Monday, May 10, with one of the cheapest return fares being $613.
There is currently a one-way travel bubble with the Cook Islands – allowing residents to enter New Zealand without having to quarantine for 14 days.
It is one of the few countries in the Pacific, including Tonga, Samoa and Niue, that have been and remain completely free of the virus in the community.
Ardern’s comments follow a visit from Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown, who became the first international leader to be welcomed on to New Zealand soil since the pandemic turned the world upside down.
Brown, who visited in March, told media then that they were ready for business and for the two-way bubble to start some time in May.
UPDATED ON: 30 April 2021 (NZ time)
NZ officials assisting with travel bubble preparation
Secretary Bob Williams from Te Marae Ora. (PHOTO: COOK ISLANDS TOURISM). 21032305
Preparations for a travel bubble with New Zealand are continuing and Prime Minister Mark Brown says Government is continuing its work to be ready by the beginning of next month.
Preparations in advance of quarantine-free travel with New Zealand are picking up speed with the arrival of New Zealand government staff to assist with the training of local health workers.
Following the stationing of Cook Islands government staff in New Zealand for two weeks earlier this month, a team from New Zealand’s Ministry of Health is currently in Rarotonga for a two-week attachment with Te Marae Ora (TMO) to assist with health readiness planning in advance of any travel bubble.
Te Marae Ora secretary Bob Williams said the health ministry ran a ‘live’ scenario last week, which provided a simulation dealing with potential cases of Covid-19 in the Cook Islands.
“The gaps that we have identified from that scenario is the training that some of the officials with New Zealand’s Ministry of Health are taking our staff through,” Williams said.
Training on contact tracing, including utilising the recently released CookSafe+ app, is also taking place.
“Using the app to contact trace is something new to our staff, so that training is being provided to them,” he said.
Contact tracing systems were recently bolstered with the signing of an agreement with the Cook Islands Red Cross, which has also offered to assist with the nation’s Covid-19 vaccination programme and other challenges surrounding the opening of the border.
Williams said TMO is also exploring the possibility of making an arrangement with first responders such as police and firefighters, to assist with contact tracing.
Improvements to TMO’s mass testing abilities are also on track, Williams said, with the final pieces of equipment for Rarotonga Hospital’s PCR lab having arrived earlier this month.
An overseas trainer has arrived this week, and training was expected to start with lab technicians on Wednesday and continue for two weeks.
When a bubble opens up, Williams said visitors will not be required to undergo Covid-19 pre-testing, which places further importance on the country’s health preparedness.
“This is a new experience for us, as we move towards quarantine-free travel,” said Williams.
“The challenge is around decision making, understanding the risks presented in New Zealand, and knowing what we need to put in place to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 coming through here. So that will mean being vigilant at the border and through all of Ministry of Health’s processes.”
A firm date for a travel bubble between both countries has not been announced.
Last month Prime Minister Mark Brown said the country will be ready for quarantine-free travel by May 1, however he has since said the country will be working with the New Zealand government to jointly announce a date for the beginning of two-way travel.
Both Brown and his New Zealand counterpart, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, have broadly set May as the target month for the bubble.
This week Brown said he is expecting a bubble readiness assessment report from the Border Easement Taskforce, which includes the heads of a number of government agencies and is chaired by Tepaeru Herrmann, secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Immigration.
“We have been uncompromising in our commitment to ensuring all necessary health and border measures are instituted to the highest standards of protection against Covid-19 prior to commencement of the quarantine-free travel arrangement,” Brown said this week.
UPDATED ON: 30 April 2021 (NZ time)
COVID-19: Cook Islands travel bubble announcement expected on Monday 30/04/2021
Watch: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed on Friday there will be more to say soon. Credits: Image – Getty; Video – Newshub
May is the month the Government has circled for a Pacific bubble and Cook Islands officials may have given an early clue.
Newshub has learned there will be an announcement on Monday.
For many businesses, it’s been a long time coming and optimism has been premature in the past.
This time the Cook Islands testing laboratory that has been one of the biggest barriers to a bubble is set to be up and running in just over a week.
The Cook Islands Health Ministry has been busy installing equipment which has delayed the completion of a lab that will process COVID-19 tests locally.
“The trainer for the lab staff is in the country and training has begun, so that part of it has been covered off and I understand they are going to go live on May 10 so not very far off at all,” says Eve Hayden from the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce.
May 10 is the same date Air New Zealand is ramping up its operations to the Islands but they say that’s just tentative until they find out when the bubble is opening.
A list of work that first had to be completed was given to the Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown when he visited a month ago and on Thursday he said it’s been a priority.
“I cannot and will not sacrifice safety for the sake of expediency, my officials, therefore, have been instructed to work at pace so we can achieve both.”
Brown’s cabinet met today to decide whether that work is now complete.
“They will be putting that onto the New Zealand cabinets table on Monday and then following that I guess there will be a joint statement from the New Zealand Prime Minister and our Prime Minister,” says Hayden.
Jacinda Ardern confirmed on Friday there will be more to say soon: “Whilst we haven’t made announcements today we will have more to say next week.”
In the meantime, the Cook Islands red cross has been training extra volunteers if needed for contact tracing.
“It will never be 100 percent but we are doing our best here in the Cook Islands to make sure that our visitors arrive when the border opens in a safe way,” says Fine Tuitupou-Arnold from Red Cross Cook Islands.
UPDATED ON: 13 April 2021 (NZ time)
Testing regime delays Cooks two-way travel plans
5:51 am today
A report from the Cook Islands says the country will not have a rapid Covid-19 testing facility in place before the tentative start date for two-way travel with New Zealand on May 1st.
The Cook Islands News says the government has called the polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, laboratory as the gold standard for testing.
It is seen as necessary to ease border restrictions.
But it could be into the second week of May before it’s ready for testing, according to Te Marae Ora laboratory manager, Douglas Tou.
Mr Tou says testing can’t start on 1st May because the necessary two weeks of training won’t start until late April, while some key laboratory equipment has also been held up.
The government spokesperson, Jaewynn McKay has confirmed the delays.
UPDATED ON: 4 April 2021 (NZ time)
United effort must continue towards travel bubble, says PM
PM Mark Brown presents a gift to his NZ counterpart Jacinda Ardern. MFAI/21040120
“There’s no sitting back for anyone. We are focused and united in our determination to ensure the safe and full resumption of quarantine-free travel and we look forward to being ready to welcome New Zealand visitors from 1 May,” says Prime Minister Mark Brown.
Brown, who returned home yesterday, says a busy schedule of week -long back-to-back official appointments in his first state visit to New Zealand has left him “confident of readiness and how we will ensure full resumption of safe two-way quarantine free travel (QFT) between New Zealand and the Cook Islands from May 2021.”
The QFT arrangement signed by the two governments in December last year requires 14 days prior residence in New Zealand or the Cook Islands to be eligible for entry into the Cook Islands.
This week’s discussions also involved Health Secretary Bob Williams and a team of medical professionals from Rarotonga. They are working in Wellington with New Zealand Ministry of Health officials to complete final reviews of both countries Covid health surge response and contingency arrangements which will support operationalisation of the travel bubble.
“A major part of our visit has been sharing the extent of our health and border readiness endeavours over the last 12 months,” said PM Brown.
“Our robust and uncompromising health protection measures bolstered by New Zealand’s added layer of health and border protection against the rest of the world has kept us Covid-free. However, in that 12 months we’ve exhausted our financial reserves to keep our economy afloat and sustain our people, and now face crippling economic and social impacts.”
“It’s costing us a million dollars in lost revenue every day New Zealand visitors can’t travel here. Meanwhile, targeted recruitment by New Zealand horticulture and primary industries businesses has taken some 300 of our people from our workforce in the last month, straight into jobs there. Facilitating travel of New Zealanders to the Cook Islands will be the difference to arresting an exodus of working-age Cook Islanders and their families to New Zealand.”
PM Brown said access to grant aid, lower-interest funding and added capital loan funding, “will help to keep Cook Islanders in the Cook Islands rather than adding to the NZ-Cook Islands diaspora.”
Welcome formalities for the Prime Minister’s state visit to New Zealand took place at the Auckland Museum buildings, with a traditional Maori welcome, an inspection of an honour guard and in parallel, a 19-gun ceremonial salute commemorating the New Zealand welcome of its first world leader since closing borders to the pandemic. It also saw a record number of one-on-one scheduling with ministerial and other bilateral partners for Prime Minister Brown.
Following a bilateral consultation with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Friday 26th March, the Prime Minister and his delegation travelled to Wellington and met Monday with New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grant Robertson, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta, COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins, Police Minister Poto Williams, and Pacific People’s Minister Su’a Aupito William Sio. The Prime Minister also met with the Pacific and Maori caucus groups of the New Zealand Parliament, and had sessions with Cook Islands community leaders, tertiary students, Wellington Cook Islands church communities, Pacific Homecare and other business leaders, and Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran.
Bilateral meetings with France, Japan and the People’s Republic of China as well as discussions with other members of the wider diplomatic corps based in Wellington and talks with the NZ Reserve Bank and ADB were also part of the non-stop schedule, which included delivery of two keynote addresses- the first to the tribute service for a new Pacific memorial at the Pukeahu National War Memorial park in Wellington, and the second on lessons for regional approaches beyond COVID-19 at an event hosted by the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs, NZIIA.
- Lisa Williams/MFAI
UPDATED ON: 4 April 2021 (NZ time)
Te Marae Ora laboratory manager, Douglas Tou opens the ultra-cold freezer which will soon be storing Covid-19 vaccines. 21040125
An ultra-cold freezer purchased in 2006 will be used to store the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines when they are made available to the Cook Islands, reports Caleb Fotheringham.
Two ultra-cold freezers – a similar size to a large family fridge – will hold the entire country’s Covid-19 vaccines at minus 70 degrees Celsius.
The freezers held at Rarotonga Hospital have two doors, one in the outside and another on the inside.
From the outside, they look like glorified fridges, to the extent that one freezer even has a couple of magnets on it. One of the clues suggesting it’s not just a standard fridge is the -78-degree temperature gauge.
Another of these ultra-cold freezers is on the next ship to Rarotonga which should be arriving on Friday, April 9.
One of the ultra-cold freezers will be used for the new Covid-19 testing PCR lab, which is in its final stages of setting up. It will be used to archive Covid test samples.
The freezer for the PCR lab is new and will be exclusively used for the lab.
Te Marae Ora laboratory manager Douglas Tou said the vaccines and the virus weren’t allowed to mix in the same freezer.
One of the freezers that will be used to store the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is already existing, purchased in 2006 for the influenza programme in the Cook Islands. The other freezer that will be used for the vaccine is the one on the ship.
The reason so many shots can fit inside the freezer is due to the small vaccine vials (bottles). Tou demonstrates this by holding his thumb and index finger only a few centimetres apart. “There’s about, maybe, 10 people to a vial.”
Tou said vaccinations will take place at the hospital, so keeping them at the temperature is no issue.
As for the outer islands, the vaccine can last for five days in the two to eight-degree range, similar to a temperature of a (normal) fridge. The small population on the outer islands mean it should only take a day or two to vaccinate the entire population, “so the five-day timeline is no problem”.
Dr Yin Yin May, director of medical services at Rarotonga hospital, said she could not yet share how the vaccines will be transported from New Zealand because it’s still being worked on.
Secretary of Te Marae Ora, Bob Williams said on similar terms, the details are confidential.
However, Cook Islands News understands vaccines will likely be packed with dry ice and transported in a chiller. The vaccines will remain at minus 70 degrees across the flight, retaining its temperature from the ice.
It’s also unknown how the vaccines will arrive but it’s likely they will be transported by the New Zealand Air Force over a commercial plane like Air New Zealand, potentially with the C-130H(NZ) Hercules.
Early last month, New Zealand Health Minister Chris Hipkins said a vaccine roll-out over the next three to four months would reach 2 million New Zealanders.
In a joint press conference with Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown last week, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed that a vaccine roll-out in the Cook Islands will happen simultaneously to New Zealand’s.
“It makes good sense that in some cases we go in and start the roll-out in its entirety given the population base, relative to the five million that we’ll be doing in New Zealand.”
PM Brown is aiming for a rollout here in May.
UPDATED ON: 1 April 2021 (NZ time)
Cook Islands prepares to open borders for all New Zealander by May
Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown says they’ll be “open for business”, despite no confirmation from New Zealand officials. Source: Breakfast
UPDATED ON: 1 April 2021 (NZ time)
Cooks open for business from May 1: PM tells NZ
Muri lagoon is normally bustling with tourists snorkeling and sunbathing at this time of the year. A travel bubble between the Cook Islands and New Zealand will allow visitors back into the country. SIVA GOUNDAR/20080206
The month of May is the broad target Prime Minister Mark Brown and NZ counterpart Jacinda Ardern have agreed to set for welcoming Kiwi visitors, but the Cooks PM says the country will be ready to roll out the welcome mat precisely on the 1st of that month.
If Prime Minister Mark Brown has his way, it will be less than five weeks before the first few visitors from New Zealand will be able to visit the Cook Islands without the need to quarantine.
All he needs is for New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern to give the green light to the plan.
PM Brown – currently on a whirlwind trip to NZ visiting top Kiwi government officials – agreed with Ardern on setting the month of May as the target for two-way quarantine-free travel after face-to-face talks last week.
And on Monday, he gave local tourism stakeholders what they’ve been asking for – a firm date.
“We’ve set a date that we believe our private sector deserves to know, the airlines need to know, and our people need to know,” Brown told Cook Islands News in a Zoom press conference yesterday. “So we are ready to commence business on the 1st of May, and that’s the date that we’ve provided to New Zealand.”
But Brown’s expedited plan will require buy-in from Ardern and her cabinet.
The Kiwi PM appeared on TVNZ’s 1 News yesterday and singled out contact tracing and “surge testing” – also known as mass testing capabilities for Covid-19 – as “really critical things that we want to ensure are in place”.
In recent weeks the Cook Islands has moved forward with key aspects of its Covid-19 health preparedness. Health authorities say a new polymerase chain reaction (PCR) lab that can be used for mass testing is expected to be in operation by mid-April.
And a new app utilising Bluetooth technology, similar to that used in New Zealand, will soon be available for download according to the Chamber of Commerce, which led efforts to develop the app.
When Ardern was pressed by the 1 News host on why the bubble has been met with several delays, her reply was “probably not the question for me, given I don’t run the Cook Islands health system”.
PM Brown acknowledged that NZ Government officials will be looking for further confirmation on developments with mass testing and contact tracing in the lead up to his May 1 target.
“They will be documenting what we have already put into practice over the last few months while we have had our two way quarantine travel occurring just for Cook Islanders and work permit holders.
“We are now looking to expand that of course to the wider Kiwi population, in order to get our businesses up and running and in order to get our people employed so that they do not continue to leave the country.”
Brown’s announcement was welcomed by the local tourism industry.
“Businesses now have a timeline and the count down clock has officially started,” said Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council president Liana Scott.
“We have been very impressed and grateful for the strong advocacy and leadership of Prime Minister Brown while in New Zealand and are confident that he wishes for a safe opening of a two-way bubble as much as we do.
“If early booking enquiries are any indication, the border opening cannot come any sooner.”
UPDATED ON: 25 March 2021 (NZ time)
Please take the time to read
More great progress by the Cook Islands together, we are getting there.
UPDATED ON: 25 March 2021 (NZ time)
From The Cook Islands News today. Keeping the dream alive
UPDATED ON: 25 March 2021 (NZ time)
PM Brown heads to Aotearoa for travel bubble discussions with NZ PM Ardern
Prime Minister Mark Brown. MFAI/21012918
Securing a new date for two-way travel with New Zealand is at the top of the agenda for Prime Minister Mark Brown.
Brown will be leading a high-level delegation traveling to New Zealand today.
It is the Prime Minister’s first official visit to Aotearoa since taking over office from Manihiki MP Henry Puna in September last year.
Brown will be joined by Tepaeru Herrmann, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Immigration and Garth Henderson, Secretary of Finance and Economic Management.
The Office of the Prime Minister has released an itinerary for the PM Brown’s visit, which begins when he will be formally welcomed by Aupito Tofae Su’a William Sio, NZ’s Minister for Pacific Peoples, before attending a Cook Islands Community Leaders event in Mangere.
On Thursday, Brown will be attending an event at the Auckland War Memorial Museum before meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
He is the first international leader to visit New Zealand since Covid-19 shut the nation’s borders.
Next week, the PM and his delegation will be holding a number of high-level meetings, holding discussions with NZ Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Grant Robertson, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta and Minister for Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins.
Meetings are also scheduled with Minister of Police Poto Williams, Assistant Governor of the Reserve Bank Christian Hawkesby, and members of the Maori Caucus.
Back in Auckland on Wednesday, Prime Minister Brown will visit Pacific Homecare and meet with Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran, National Party Leader Judith Collins, and attend a reception hosted by Minister Mahuta, which will conclude the formal programme.
During his visit, Brown will also be attending the dedication of the Pacific Islands Memorial Te Reo Hotunui o Te Moana Nui a Kiwa at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington, a reception hosted by Cook Islands High Commissioner Elizabeth Wright-Koteka, and a Cook Islands Community Church Service at the Ekalesia Kerititiano Kuki Airani (EKKA) in Porirua.
Travelling with the Prime Minister will be Mrs Daphne Brown.
The delegation arrives back in Rarotonga on Good Friday, April 2.
UPDATED ON: 16 March 2021 (NZ time)
MEDIA RELEASE FROM THE OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER OF THE COOK ISLANDS
MEDIA RELEASE PRIME MINISTER TO VISIT NEW ZEALAND 14 March 2021
Prime Minister Brown today welcomed confirmation of his first official visit to Aotearoa-New Zealand which will take place between 25th March and 2nd April. “This is my first international mission as Prime Minister and it is fitting that it is to New Zealand, our most significant partner. “I look forward to meeting with Prime Minister Ardern and with her Government to progress active discussions of interest to both of us including the safe resumption of two-way quarantine free travel between our countries.“I also look forward to joining Prime Minister Ardern for the unveiling of Te Reo Hotunui o te Moana nui a Kiwa – the Pacific Islands Memorial at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park on 27 March. This memorial represents New Zealand’s enduring friendship with the Pacific and the service of our people who fought for New Zealand in both World Wars and later conflicts.”Arrangements for the mission are still being finalised via the respective Ministries of Foreign Affairs. ENDS Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486.
UPDATED ON: 6 March 2021 (NZ time)
UPDATED ON: 6 March 2021 (NZ time)
Effective from 11.59pm Saturday 6th March 2021 (CKT), the following persons are exempted for entry into the Cook Islands, provided they additionally meet the entry criteria specified below;
- Cook Islanders (as verified via Cook Islands Status stamp)
- Permanent Residents of the Cook Islands
- Cook Islands work permit holders
- Cook Islands resident permit holders
- Must have spent the last 14 days in New Zealand and/or the Cook Islands, prior to entry into the Cook Islands
Clinical/medical criteria to be administered by Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health prior to departure from Auckland, New Zealand;
- Provides a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to departure from Auckland, New Zealand
All requests for entry into the Cook Islands must be sought from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki) on email: firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATED ON: 17 February 2021 (NZ time)
UPDATED ON: 14 February 2021 (NZ time)
UPDATED ON: 6 February 2021 (NZ time)
New Zealand affirms further health support
Officials from Cook Islands and New Zealand held more technical and detailed discussions relating to the two-way quarantine free travel, Covid-19 vaccine and further support to strengthen the local health system.
Cook Islands Health Minister Rose Brown met with New Zealand Minister of Pacific People’s and Associate Minister of Health Aupito William Sio to reaffirm New Zealand’s commitment to further supporting the Cook Islands health response to Covid-19.
The meeting was held in Auckland over a week ago.
According to a government statement, Minister Brown expressed the Cook Islands appreciation for the assistance received from New Zealand towards the Cook Islands Covid-19 response.
They include technical and financial support to strengthen health systems, the recent removal of mandatory isolation for Cook Islands arrivals into New Zealand, the invaluable ongoing health advice from New Zealand Ministry of Health officials to Te Marae Ora (TMO) officials and ongoing efforts focused on strengthening systems and personnel capabilities to support the resumption of two way quarantine free travel between the two countries.
She also thanked Minister Aupito Sio for his letter received in December 2020, reaffirming the New Zealand Government’s commitment and support towards the Cook Islands access, purchase, planning and delivery of safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine for the Cook Islands.
“New Zealand has been very responsive of our requests for assistance to strengthen our capabilities to respond to this pandemic, and for that, we are deeply appreciative,” Minister Brown said in a statement.
“We look forward to the disbursement of the vaccine to ensure that our people remain Covid free, the continuation of work by our respective officials to ensure that the vaccine that we receive is effective and safe in the coming months, as well as ensuring that we are prepared for the resumption of two way quarantine free travel between our countries.”
The meeting between the Ministers is an important step in the continuation of work to not only enable resumption of two-way quarantine free travel between New Zealand and the Cook Islands, but also in ensuring both populations receive the best vaccine option possible in building resilience to Covid-19. Minister Brown was supported in her discussions by High Commissioner to New Zealand, Elizabeth Wright-Koteka; Secretary of Health, Bob Williams and Consul General, Keu Mataroa.
The ministerial meeting builds on many months of work and dialogue between the two governments led for the Cook Islands by Prime Minister Mark Brown and supported by Cabinet Ministers and the Border Easement Taskforce comprising heads of agencies for the Ministry of Foreign and Immigration, TMO, the Office of the Prime Minister, Crown Law, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management and Tourism.
Following the ministerial meeting, Cook Islands officials met with New Zealand Ministry of Health and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials in Wellington, for more technical and detailed discussions relating to the two-way quarantine free travel, Covid-19 vaccine and further support to strengthen the Cook Islands health system.
Secretary of Health Williams said: “These meetings build on prior ministerial and senior officials discussions over many months and allow us to advance outstanding matters that will strengthen our resilience to mitigate against Covid-19.”
“The face to face engagement opportunities with the likes of New Zealand’s Director General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield bode well for the ongoing co-operation between our agencies and governments given our shared determination to keep our people safe from Covid-19.”
According to High Commissioner Wright-Koteka: “Ministerial level discussions elevate ambition and enable focused effort and momentum in the work of officials and whilst there is much more work to be done, this week’s discussions serve to garner renewed focus and energy as both governments strive to ensure both populations remain safe and two-way quarantine free travel can resume as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Over the next couple of weeks, officials from both countries will continue to work to advance readiness work to enable the resumption of two-way quarantine free travel as soon as it’s safe to do so and access to Covid-19.
UPDATED ON: 27 January 2021 (NZ time)
Great to read this – the boxes are diligently being ticked to ensure the safety of everyone once the NZ/Cook Islands bubble is a GO.
UPDATED ON: 24 January 2021 (NZ time)
Covid-19 case found in Northland community, Hipkins to hold press conference this afternoon
Health officials are responding to a positive case of community transmission of Covid-19 in Northland.
The Covid-19 Response Minister, Chris Hipkins along with the Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield will be holding a press conference at 4.00pm at the Beehive.
The Ministry of Health confirmed it is investigating a positive test result in a person who has departed from a managed isolation facility.
Epidemiologist, Michael Baker told 1 NEWS that a border case of Covid-19 would make it easier to contact trace.
“Having a link to the border is always a relief, as it means there’s a finite number of people to be chased.”
The latest Covid-19 numbers released today by the Ministry of Health says there are eight new cases of the virus in managed isolation, bringing the total number of cases to 79.
The total number of confirmed cases to date is 1,927.
UPDATED ON: 21 January 2021 (NZ time)
Covid-19: Air New Zealand’s first quarantine-free Cook Islands flight en-route to Auckland Airport
By: Grant Bradley
The first quarantine-free flight into New Zealand for 10 months is heading for Auckland Airport.
Air New Zealand flight NZ941 is due to land just after 11.10am – about 20 minutes late. For the first time since last April, passengers from the flight will pass through the arrivals area directly into the arms of loved ones.
While it is for now a one-way bubble, the first quarantine-free flight is seen as the forerunner of two-way air bridges with the Pacific Islands and Australia.
Scott Tasker, Auckland Airport’s general manager aeronautical commercial, said it meant families could reconnect more easily.
Passengers from the flight will use a streamlined Safe Travel Path, which separates them from passengers arriving from other parts of the world.
“Air travel is important for trade, business or just heading off on an exciting adventure – and also for connecting friends and whanau for life’s precious moments is what really makes it special,” said Tasker.
While Auckland Airport has prepared to separate its international terminal into two self-contained zones – a health management zone for arrivals needing to go into managed isolation and quarantine, and a safe travel zone for arrivals from countries with which New Zealand has formed two-way, safe travel bubbles – these separated zones won’t operate for the Cook Islands arrivals.
”The expectation of only two flights per week under the one-way, quarantine-free arrangement with the Cook Islands made a Safe Travel Path a practical interim step, following discussions with border agencies and government officials,” said Tasker.
Rarotonga on Wednesdays and Saturdays using an A321 aircraft.
Passengers will undergo health checks pre-flight at Rarotonga International Airport and in Auckland Airport on arrival.
They will also be required to wear masks inflight for the flights where one economy tickets (there is no business class) started at $419.
Tasker said allowing quarantine-free flights from a Covid-free country like the Cook Islands is a small, but important, first step in the recovery of the aviation and tourism sector.
“Taking a careful and staged, risk-based approach to re-opening the New Zealand border will be crucial in re-establishing regular, reliable air links with the Pacific Islands and beyond,” Tasker said.
International passenger movements have been devastated by the pandemic.
”We are a long way from the 15,000 people that would have walked through our international arrivals doors daily this time last year, but what we’ve seen with domestic air travel is that people are keen to fly again when lockdown restrictions are lifted. We now have domestic travel volumes at around 60 per cent of what they were pre-Covid.”
Before the pandemic about 1.4 million people travelled to and from the Pacific Islands through Auckland Airport each year on eight different airlines.
Tasker said it would ”take some time” to get those air connections re-established.
Air New Zealand chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty said the airline had been encouraged by bookings since the announcement late last week.
Before returning to the Cook Islands passengers will need to undertake a Covid-19 test within 96 hours of their flight departing. The result must be negative. Travellers also must complete the exit health clearance process at Auckland Airport.
New Zealanders can’t yet travel to the Cook Islands for holidays. Entry is limited to Cook Islanders and current holders of Cook Islands work and residence permits who meet that country’s health entry requirements.
Work is underway on establishing a two-way travel bubble with Australia which could start as early as the end of March. New Zealanders can travel quarantine-free to New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, Queensland and Victoria but coming in to this country they must complete 14 days in managed isolation or quarantine.
Can I come into the terminal to welcome my friend or family member?
Yes. The main international terminal car park – Car Park A – and the pick-up/drop-off areas are open.
Auckland Airport has issued the following advice about today’s arrival:
Are taxis, shuttles and public transport operating?
Yes, you’ll be able to catch a taxi, rideshare, SkyBus or Auckland Transport bus services to and from the international terminal. Please remember to wear a face mask on public transport or if requested by your driver.
UPDATED ON: 12 December 2020 (NZ time)
Press Release regarding quarantine free bubble agreement between NZ & Cook Islands confirmed to begin in the first quarter of 2021.
New Zealanders will soon be able to travel to the Cook Islands without having to quarantine for two weeks there – or on their return home.
The announcement has just been made public.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Cook Islands counterpart Mark Brown have instructed officials to continue working together to put in place all measures required to safely recommence two-way quarantine-free travel in the first quarter of next year.
“The arrangement recognises the special ties between New Zealand and the Cook Islands. It will allow people to travel more easily between our two countries, while acknowledging that the priority remains to protect our populations from Covid-19,” Ardern said.
Read the full article here
UPDATED ON: 26 November 2020 (NZ time)
Media Release from the NZ Ministry of Health on Thursday 26 November 2020 (NZ time)
Air New Zealand case
As previously reported, the Ministry of Health has been working closely with Air New Zealand after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 in Shanghai.
Results of genome sequencing show that the lineage of this infection is not associated with any New Zealand cases that have been sequenced, indicating international exposure is most likely.
The crew returned from Shanghai on a cargo-only flight yesterday morning. All crew wore PPE and are being monitored, isolated and tested.
Further test samples from close contacts* of the staff member have been processed rapidly and nine results have been returned, all of which are negative.
Because this case was first reported in China, it is officially a case in China, not New Zealand – so while we are reporting on it, it does not enter into our official count of COVID-19 cases.
The Ministry continues to investigate how this most recent confirmed COVID-19 case was contracted. Although the source of the infection is still unknown, we are continuing to take precautionary actions within New Zealand.
Auckland Regional Public Health Service is continuing to identify any locations of interest the case may have visited and any associated close contacts. Twelve close contacts have been identified to date.
*The Ministry would like to correct yesterday’s statement. At that time, there were 10 close contacts in self isolation or managed isolation. Another potential close contact was being investigated.
UPDATED ON: 21 NOVEMBER 2020 (NZ time)
Press Release from the Prime Minister’s Office – Cook Islands on 19 Nov 2020 (Cook Islands Time) in response to public pressure regarding 14 Day Quarantine on arrival in the Cook islands.
MEDIA RELEASE FROM THE OFFICE OF MARK BROWN, PRIME MINISTER OF THE COOK ISLANDS,
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT 19 NOVEMBER 2020
Prime Minister Mark Brown has just met with his Cabinet, who have agreed that Supervised Quarantine is not required for those arriving on tomorrow’s flight.
The Prime Minister has clarified comments he made in an interview yesterday that were reported in today’s Cook Islands News.When the Prime Minister was being interviewed yesterday, primarily on a topic not related to COVID-19 or supervised quarantine, he was asked questions about political meetings that were being held around Rarotonga regarding the introduction of mandatory supervised quarantine.
The Prime Minister had a little earlier been alerted to the recently discovered COVID-19 case in Samoa. The person had arrived off a repatriation flight from Auckland late last week. As we all subsequently discovered, the person (a sailor) had been returning from Europe via New Zealand – where he was in transit. This was not a New Zealand case of community transmission. In an attempt to demonstrate how quickly the Cook Islands can reimpose Supervised Quarantine, the Prime Minister made reference to the Samoan case, and had that turned out to be a case of community transmission and had New Zealand shifted levels, so too would the Cook Islands. Hence the quote “ that’s how quickly we can respond.
If New Zealand’s situation changes, we change ours straight away.” “New Zealand has not changed their alert levels, so there will be no change to our border settings. At this stage only Cook Islanders, PRs and work permit holders can enter with a negative test.” the Prime Minister said this morning.
PM Brown also noted the introduction yesterday of mandatory mask wearing on all public transport to, from and through Auckland and all domestic flight throughout New Zealand.“I think New Zealand is being very proactive in adding another layer of precaution and protection in the community. This approach is also providing an extra layer of protection for Cook Islands people and everyone in fact, living in New Zealand.
As we all know, a face covering helps to stop the spreading of droplets when people speak, laugh, cough, sing or sneeze. Wearing masks saves lives, that’s the reality. I have asked my officials to prepare a mask wearing strategy for Cabinet to consider in the near future.“We are very fortunate to have New Zealand as a buffer and supporter.
New Zealand has shown the world how to fight and contain this disease; and we have benefitted from that, because since we closed our borders in March this year, the few exemptions we have allowed into the country have had to come through New Zealand. They have been limited to Cook Island families and essential workers. And they have had to pass through New Zealand’s stringent COVID-19 and health checks.”“Our precautions are in step with what New Zealand does and goes up or down in relation to their alert system. The limited travel we have allowed across our border has been driven by the risks we perceive from people coming in from there. That’s why we have gone through supervised quarantine procedures from time to time.
At the moment the perceived level of risk is very low. But, that may well change, in the coming days, weeks, months.”Earlier today the Prime Minister met with the Leader of the Opposition, Hon Tina Browne and some of her colleagues, he explained the decision making process and the process around amending travel advisories. Both parties also discussed the quarantine free travel arrangement currently being negotiated with New Zealand and how it will allow, only when safe, reciprocal travel. In particular they discussed the impact for Cook Islanders intending to travel to New Zealand without having to have to undertake and fund two weeks of managed isolation in an isolation facility on arrival.
Both parties agreed to work for the good of the country. “What we all firmly agreed is that we need to bolster our risk assessment models based on more science and epidemiology”, the Prime Minister noted.“Government’s decision continues to based on the matrix below, this Border Control and Disease Transmission matrix is what has been guiding the government’s decision making process for many months already, however I will be asking my officials to review this matrix as we gain a better understanding of how COVID works and how it is spread.” the Prime Minister concluded. ENDS:
Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486; email@example.com
UPDATED ON: 14 November 2020 (NZ time)
New Zealand Health Officials fly to Cook Islands for border control inspection.
A team of Four from the NZ Ministry of Health departed today for a week long visit to Rarotonga.
The purpose of their visit is to take a close look at arrival processes in Rarotonga for all incoming visitors by air and by sea, to ensure processes are adequate to prevent introduction of and spread of COVID-19 within the Cook Islands community.
The team will be taking special interest in the Maritime border and will be working closely with Managers in the Cook Islands.
UPDATED ON: 7 July 2020 (NZ time)
Jacinda Ardern speaks to the topic of when the borders may open.
Interview 6 July 2020
Now that Australia has had a setback in their border opening for New Zealand, and has asserted that they wish to move forward as one unit rather than State by State, Jack Tane asked Jacinda Ardern what this means for New Zealand and for the opening of the Pacific Islands in the immediate term – the short version of her reply is ‘watch this space, we are down the track with discussions already’. Watch the interview
New Zealand considers quarantine exemptions for Cook Islands
11:58 am on 4 July 2020
New Zealand officials are considering a quarantine exemption for important travellers from the Cook Islands.
The exemption, which is the first of its kind, would apply to relatives accompanying patients seeking medical treatment here, members of the judiciary, health workers, and people working on critical infrastructure.
It follows a meeting between Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters and his counterpart Mark Brown on Thursday, after which Peters instructed officials to look into the exemption.
A spokesperson for Peters said details were still being decided.
Discussions on a possible wider travel bubble between the Cook Islands and New Zealand are also underway.
“The Cook Islands will continue to limit air access to the Cook Islands via Auckland only through to December. We consider these further commitments critical to preserving and protecting a shared travel bubble with New Zealand,” the Cook Islands Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Source: Radio New Zealand News
UPDATED ON: 4 July 2020 (NZ time)
Thursday 2 July 2020, 16:00
Cook Islands-New Zealand Joint Ministerial Forum prioritise border settings review.
The Cook Islands and New Zealand concluded yesterday, via virtual platform an extraordinary Joint Ministerial Forum (JMF), within the context of COVID-19, with a focus on response and recovery. Cook Islands Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown chaired the discussions, with New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Winston Peters leading for New Zealand.Yesterday’s meeting was the culmination of multiple discussions between the two governments dating back to January – at Prime Minister, Minister and senior officials levels.
The most recent prior exchange before yesterday’s JMF was the meeting of Senior Officials via the JMF Working Group chaired by Cook Islands Foreign Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann on the 18th June.The JMF is the preeminent policy dialogue mechanism between the Cook Islands and New Zealand that considers and agrees bilateral cooperation priorities and activities. It convenes annually to ensure cooperation activities maintain forward momentum and remain responsive to evolving needs and issues and is provided policy support and advice via the JM Working Group led by the respective Foreign Ministries of both governments.
Discussions yesterday focused on the border settings of New Zealand and the Cook Islands with respect to COVID-19 and the economic impact of COVID-19. On border settings, work on the creation of a ‘safe travel zone’ between the Cook Islands and New Zealand has been undertaken at multiple levels within both settings for a number of weeks, noting considerations are complex, multifaceted and reach across all areas of Government. Said Minister Brown, “It was a very positive discussion with Minister Peters with consensus on the primacy of our health imperatives and preserving the hard won gains New Zealand and the Cook Islands have made in going early and going hard to eliminate and mitigate against the spread of COVID-19.
We agreed it necessary to remain vigilant and ensure robust mitigation measures against risks, including border settings, given the virus continued growth elsewhere in the world. At the same time however, we committed to continuing to prioritise progression of border settings easement between ourselves given we’ve both for some time now been safe havens from COVID-19 and New Zealand’s current border settings are having significant impact and implications on the Cook Islands health, social and economic circumstances.”
Minister Brown reiterated prior requests from the Cook Islands for the removal of quarantine requirements on arrival into New Zealand for travellers from the Cook Islands and relaxing of New Zealand’s outwards travel advisory for travel to the Cook Islands. Minister Peters has tasked his officials to explore the potential for removal of the 14 day supervised quarantine for certain categories of travellers from the Cook Islands to New Zealand such as accompanying family member for health referrals; members of the judiciary; medical personnel and critical infrastructure personnel.
The Cook Islands also expressed its desire to see the early resumption of tourists from New Zealand, noting the Cook Islands current border settings had a pre-requisite of 30 days prior residence in New Zealand for entry into the Cook Islands. “We are grateful for New Zealand’s sustained engagement and consideration of the Cook Islands since February on New Zealand’s border settings and we look forward to continued collaboration in the coming weeks.
In addition to maintaining the pre-requisite of 30 days prior residence in New Zealand for entry into the Cook Islands through to at least September, the Cook Islands will continue to limit air access to the Cook Islands via Auckland only through to December. We consider these further commitments critical to preserving and protecting a shared travel bubble with New Zealand.”
Border settings and critical preparedness and response work continues apace to ensure the establishment of requisite levels of mutual trust and confidence in border control settings and public health measures through surveillance and testing regimes, including robust contact tracing systems.
Minister Peters noted NZ continue to take very seriously their duty to minimize and mitigate against the risk of introducing COVID-19 to the Pacific and the Cook Islands. This sentiment was supported by Minister Brown, who further noted that “This duty of care rests on both the Cook Islands and New Zealand. It requires of senior officials careful and detailed consideration of all risks associated with a potential ‘safe travel zone’ that therefore necessitates close collaboration and identification of support required to strengthen our already existing processes in addition to a full articulation of the practical policy settings we need in place to operationalize an easement of restrictions between the Cook Islands and New Zealand.
The impact of COVID-19 on the Cook Islands economy, and perhaps most significantly tourism, cannot be understated, however as we’ve seen globally and locally in New Zealand’s own response, we cannot risk the health and wellbeing of our people by rushing prematurely into an easement of restrictions.
Our officials will therefore need to work rapidly to review and assess our current levels of preparedness, and we welcome the assistance of New Zealand in this regard.”New Zealand has agreed to assist the Cook Islands with a second deployment of technical assistance from New Zealand to support a rapid review and assessment of the Cook Islands whole-of-Government systems and preparedness, inclusive strengthened border management systems and health system capability. Officials from both sides will meet within the week to revisit outcomes of the JMF and progress agreed actions. Queries regarding this media release can be directed to Karopaerangi.firstname.lastname@example.org End.
UPDATED ON: 4 June 2020
Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Henry Puna announced yesterday that the Cook Islands Borders would be open to New Zealanders from the Cook Islands side once NZ is in Level One. NZ has not yet announced the border measures at the New Zealand end. We remain confident the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern will make the right decision with the safety of the people in mind
UPDATED ON: 29 May 2020
New Zealand now has only 1 known active case of COVID-19. We await the next official review of the restrictions on 8 June 2020.
UPDATED ON: 28 May 2020
New Zealand now has only 8 known active cases of COVID-19, all of which are in the greater Auckland area.
UPDATED ON: 26 May 2020
Discussions are to be held between the two governments in the first week of June regarding border control measures for safely reopening some travel between NZ & the Cook Islands.
UPDATED ON: 24 May 2020
Announcement Sunday 24 May (CI Time) by Minister of Finance Hon Mark Brown – The Cook Islands Government will be rolling out Phase II of the Economic Response Plan to boost recovery & help transform the economy post COVID-19.
UPDATED ON: 24 April 2020
The repatriation process for Cook Islanders stranded in New Zealand is now able to be commenced. This will involve a 14 day quarantine in Auckland and an additional quarantine in Rarotonga to reduce the risk as much as possible of COVID-19 being introduced to the Cook Islands
UPDATED ON: 17 April 2020
The Cook Islands has been announced a COVID FREE ZONE by the Cook Islands Government. Precautions are still in place.
UPDATED ON: 13 April 2020
Live announcement from Henry Puna – Prime Minister of the Cook Islands
UPDATED ON: 11 April 2020
The Cook Islands Government has confirmed that ALL of the COVID-19 tests 575 tests sent to NZ returned as negative, still some tests to come in. The border has been closed for 14 days. Just one flight a week currently going in for freight.
Cook Islands and NZ Governments working together to keep our wee paradise safe.
UPDATED ON: 19 March 2020
The New Zealand Government has further strengthened travel restrictions, closing our border to almost all travellers from 23:59 on Thursday 19 March 2020 (NZDT).
New Zealand citizens, permanent residents, residents with valid travel conditions and their immediate family (partner or spouse, legal guardian and dependent children under the age of 24) can still come to New Zealand. Immediate family must have a valid visa or NZeTA and travel with the New Zealand citizen or resident family member on the same flight to New Zealand.
Australian citizens and permanent residents who normally live in New Zealand can also return to New Zealand. In addition, Australian citizens, residents and immediate family (partner or spouse, legal guardian and dependent children under the age of 24) are able to transit New Zealand to Australia. New Zealand citizens, residents and immediate family (partner, legal guardian and dependent children) are able to transit Australia to New Zealand.