Cook Islands Government is “waiting on word from New Zealand” before announcing the opening of its borders to Kiwi visitors.
Changes to the travel advisory to allow Kiwis into the country were expected to be made last week, and then this week – but they’ve been repeatedly delayed.
Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown said they were waiting on word from New Zealand on proposed timelines and conditions for opening an air-bridge between the two countries.
“I’m hoping to have something to report on soon.”
When asked whether New Zealand requested Cook Islands government to hold off from announcing the new travel advisory this week, Brown said: “We have opened more discussions now with New Zealand and it would be prudent to wait on outcomes before we can make any further statements. Hopefully soon.”
The push for an air-bridge between the Cook Islands and New Zealand lost momentum after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last week said it would be “premature” to set dates for reopening of borders with realm countries – though she said they might be ready to set a date in a couple of weeks.
Air New Zealand boss Greg Foran said they agreed with Ardern that separating transit passengers complicated the proposed travel bubbles.
But the New Zealand Initiative, an economic thinktank, published a report yesterday saying the country could resume normal travel arrangements with most Covid-free Pacific Islands “at no risk”.
Economists Dr Eric Crampton and Leonard Hong said: “New Zealand can and
should ‘raft up’ with other Covid-free places to develop better practices for entry into the joined lifeboats, weather the consequences of the global storm and renew unhindered travel of people who pose no viral risk to others.
“New Zealand closed its border to those islands to protect them against contracting Covid-19 from Kiwi visitors – not to protect New Zealand.
“Since these islands pose no Covid-19 risk and the islands depend on travel connections, normal travel arrangements with them should be reinstated immediately, so long as those islands’ governments are happy to welcome a return to normal travel arrangements.”
Should any community transmission eventuate, localised restrictions or suppression, including exit restrictions, should be able to keep the outbreak in check, they said in the report.
“An open border to the Cook Islands, for example, could be maintained for New Zealand overall, but with travel restrictions for anyone in contact with communities where an outbreak is suspected.”
Fletcher Melvin, chair of the Private Sector Taskforce, said the report was “pretty much in line with what we have been saying all along.”
“The fact is for our long term health we need our economy to function. If we work to having the safest travel between our two countries via implementation of cohesive health protocols, then we can create a viable bubble with New Zealand.”