Recent times have proven that there is no way to predict when the borders will open and tourists will be welcomed back to Cook Islands.
Just this week, an announcement from Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown about the country being ready to “open for business” for visitors from New Zealand was quickly side lined by New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern when she said no one wants to be responsible for bringing Covid-19 to the Pacific.
However, proactive steps are being taken in preparation to relaunch the tourism industry with Kiwis being the target market.
The Cook Islands Promise is a collaboration between Cook Islands Tourism, Te Marae Ora and the Office of the Prime Minister.
It is a commitment to not only keep Cook Islanders and overseas visitors safe from Covid-19, but to make sure the country remains free of the virus.
Cook Islands Tourism chief executive officer Halatoa Fua said the concept works across three zones with practices and guidelines for each zone.
The General Zone applies to all areas of the tourism industry and focuses on pragmatic physical distancing and good hygiene measures like washing hands regularly.
The Explore Zone includes all public facilities and venues, transport of all kinds, and focuses on avoiding crowding, avoiding direct contact with others and avoiding unnecessary touching of surfaces.
The Stay Zone applies to all accommodation properties and focuses on safeguarding the guests and staff by encouraging practical distancing measures.
“The Cook Islands Promise encourages both us the hosts, and our visitors, to safeguard each other by applying common sense physical distancing and stepped up hygiene practices. This is the new normal,” he said.
“Combined with the Kia Orana Plus rapid training programme being developed by Cook Islands Tourism, and the CookSafe contact tracing system developed by the Private Sector Taskforce, it helps to ensure that the Cook Islands Tourism Industry can be confident when visitors are ready to travel to the Cook Islands again.”
Fua said over the next few weeks, promotion of CookSafe contact tracing will be ramped up around Rarotonga.
Health secretary Dr Josephine Aumea Herman said contact tracing is core public health.
In a place like Rarotonga, where everyone knows each other, contact tracing is already in action, she said.
“We have waited for this time to promote it (CookSafe) more widely,” she said.
Effectively the borders have been open between New Zealand and Cook Islands for four weeks, Dr Josephine Aumea Herman said, with about 400 returning Cook Islanders and work permit holders travelling to Rarotonga from Auckland.
She has every confidence in the country’s health system, testing capability and its ability to cope should a coronavirus virus case arrive from New Zealand.
“We have a close working relationship with New Zealand public health professionals. The 27 active cases of Covid-19 were all caught at the border and are in isolation and it’s been more than 70 days since the last case of community transmission in New Zealand,” she said.
“It’s the basic things like social distancing and personal hygiene that are important. We as a small nation have done well to keep Covid out.”