Cook Islanders waiting out their 14 days of isolation in Auckland may face further delays after New Zealand last night went into a month-long lock-down to fight coronavirus.
Elizabeth Wright-Koteka, the Cook Islands High Commissioner to New Zealand, says it’s critical that people understand the rapidly changing situation offers no certainty when it comes to returning to Rarotonga, whether that is 14 days, four weeks, or longer.
A group of 39 Cook Islanders are caught up in the new uncertainty, now based at the Atiu Community Hostel in South Auckland until next Sunday – or longer – after spending 10 days in Honolulu attending the International Golden Oldies netball tournament in Hawaii. Of the group, one is resident in New Zealand.
All have been offered help and support by Cook Islander Hamish Crook and the Pacific Homecare organisation in South Auckland. So far, the group have chosen to isolate as a community, rather than enforce the self-isolation restrictions, and are observing distancing and hygiene restrictions in the Atiu Community Hall.
“Their understanding is they will be there for 14 days, but I know we all understand it’s imperative that we enforce the restrictions that apply to all in New Zealand, and ensure any Cook Islanders affected are kept safe in New Zealand,” Wright-Koteka said.
She said it’s important to ensure those returning home after self-isolation in New Zealand understand their individual part in ensuring their home communities are kept safe.
Pacific Homecare will also be helping with medical support, on top of healthline and other info links for the Golden Oldies.
The High Commission has been inundated with queries from Cook Islanders transiting through New Zealand on their way home since putting a call-out for travellers in self-isolation to make contact.
Numbers have zoomed from 15 to 75 in a day and are expected to climb over 100.
Wright-Koteka said: “I’ve been shocked by the numbers; they were more than I expected.”
She added the call made via social media had shown that information is being shared widely amongst the Cook Islands community.
“From our perspective once they are here in New Zealand, we are keen to register them and keep tabs on where they are, remind them to keep safe, keep their distance, follow the government and airline updates coming through.”