Govt to respond today on calls for quarantine fees

Friday 21 August 2020 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in Economy

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Non-essential travellers to Cook Islands should be made to pay for their quarantine on the way here, the Opposition says.

It comes as health officials work to confirm the location of a new quarantine facility in Auckland, when returning Cook Islanders and work permit holders can be put into managed isolation for 14 days before flying to Rarotonga.

Government spokesperson Jaewynn McKay last night said they would be in a better position today to respond to the Opposition’s call for fees

Opposition finance spokesperson Vaitoti Tupa said the Government should not be paying the quarantine costs of those on non-essential travel.

“The cost of accommodating and feeding people in 14-day quarantine in New Zealand will be a big burden for our taxpayers to carry, especially if the quarantine is for people who don’t urgently need to be here such as essential health workers.”

The Government footed more than $1 million on quarantine arrangements for returning Cook Islanders earlier in the year – including the Holiday Inn managed isolation hotel in Mangere.

“We don’t have that kind of money to spend, we have to be so careful at this time with expenditure and paying to quarantine people who want to come here on holiday, visit friends and family, attend a land meeting and those with return tickets who obviously don’t live here.

“It isn’t fair on the tax-paying public of our country.”

Tupa suggested the Government follow the example set by New Zealand which is now charging inbound travellers to be in managed quarantine.

“The New Zealand Government made allowances for Kiwis to get back home within a period of around three months and be in free quarantine, but the cost of that isn’t sustainable and now people are being charged.”

Cook Islands, too, had offered people a chance to come home on several repatriation flights.

“Now it’s time to be realistic that our little country facing such big financial challenges just can’t afford to be paying thousands to quarantine each individual wanting to come here.

“Essential workers and medical referrals yes, non-essential should pay their own way.”

Tupa also said the health ministry must have strict criteria in place on eligibility for Cook Islands tax-payer quarantine in New Zealand, and make those rules apply to everyone fairly and transparently. “I would be so disappointed, as would so many of our people, to find out that rules were bent to give certain people who don’t qualify free quarantine.

“I’m sure that everyone will understand the situation our small country is in; we are in very difficult financial times and free quarantine for inwards travelers who don’t need to be here urgently for valid reason isn’t a cost that tax payers should be lumped with. Especially now.”