A few days before New Zealand Government officials were set to visit Rarotonga to finalise arrangements for an air bridge between the two countries, a confirmed Covid-19 case not linked to international travel was discovered in Auckland.
When the second Covid-19 community outbreak was announced, all talks of a travel-bubble between Cook Islands and New Zealand came to a grinding halt.
However, Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown has confirmed that although the conversations aren’t as frequent as they were prior to the community outbreak, they are still happening.
Officials in both countries are still working through finalising the arrangement under the premise that there are to be at least 28 days with no Covid-19 cases in the community.
For the Deputy Prime Minister, the biggest question is why people travelling from Cook Islands to New Zealand are having to complete two-weeks quarantine in a managed facility and also having to pay $3100.
“We are yet to hear back from the New Zealand Government on that because right now they are in the midst of an election campaign,” Brown said.
And it would seem that one of New Zealand’s political parties is using the quarantine system as election campaign leverage.
According to Stuff, National is promising a radical shake-up at the border which would allow travellers from low-risk countries to skip full Covid-19 quarantine.
Mark Brown said quarantine free travel has been a discussion point between both governments for some time.
“This is the position that New Zealand has taken. But from our point of view, for the past seven months, we have been able to prove that our country has remained Covid-19 free,” Brown said.
“The question we are posing to the New Zealand Government is, why is it that our people are still required to undergo quarantine and on top of that are having to pay for it at $3000?
“In our view it is totally unnecessary.”
Brown said the government is hopeful that their New Zealand counterpart will be able to turn their attention to this after their election.
“We are coming up to a period of time where school students are returning back, teachers are going back to New Zealand,” he said.
“Putting a $3000 cost on their return is going to be completely unsustainable for many people and families.”