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27 November 2020

‘Over the moon’: Border controls loosened for returning residents

Monday 31 August 2020 | Written by Jonathan Milne | Published in Health

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‘Over the moon’: Border controls loosened for returning residents
Kristle Jones (left) is looking forward to returning to Rarotonga and her partner, Chris Denny. 20083028

Government agrees to let Cook Islanders and permit holders return from Auckland to Rarotonga, under strict conditions.

A delighted mum has welcomed news that her two kids will be allowed to return home to Cook Islands this week.

“Oh my goodness, I’m over the moon,” said Veena Aperau, of Arorangi. “Finally our prayers have been answered.”

Her 17-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter are among Cook Islanders whose plans to fly home were thwarted by a Covid outbreak in New Zealand.

Since then, they have been keeping themselves safe. Her sister has been home-schooling them in Auckland. “They can’t even go to the shop,” says Aperau. The two had been pleading, every day, “when can we come back, when can we come back?”

Last night she got the news she had been waiting for: the Cook Islands Cabinet had agreed to open the border just enough to allow Cook Islanders, work permit and residence permit holders to fly back.

Others hoping to return include tennis star Brett Baudinet and Kristle Jones, the partner of security boss Chris Denny.

Jones said: “I’m so happy to finally be on my way home! My three-week visit to Australia turned into six months away. Two weeks quarantine at home is a small price to pay to be able to come home while also keeping Rarotonga Covid-free.”

The Cabinet met yesterday to decide the new travel rules, which came into effect overnight. Those allowed to enter the country under the new travel advisory will be required to quarantine in a designated residence, under supervision.

Prime Minister Henry Puna said this was a challenging time for everyone.

“We believe we have made a well-informed decision based on advice from Te Marae Ora and other agencies. Cabinet will continue to monitor this situation,” he said.

The only exemptions for inbound travellers will be for Cook Islanders, who have a status stamp in their passport or from Immigration; permanent residents, work permit holders and resident permit holders.

They will have to do 14 days supervised quarantine.

Before flying, they must provide a negative Covid-19 test result, taken within four days of departing Auckland; have completed an exit health clearance from Auckland International Airport; and have a pre-approved Rarotonga residence for supervised quarantine.

On arriving, they must do those 14 days quarantine; undertake further Covid-19 testing in Rarotonga, and complete an exit health clearance from Te Marae Ora on day 14, before they can leave quarantine.

Aperau said their family had already made a plan: her son and daughter would isolate with her mother in their family home, while she and other family would stay with relatives.

They would drop off food every day but, for a little longer, would have to rely on video-chat hugs.