With Covid-19 once again in the community in New Zealand, local business owners and workers are conflicted over whether the time is right to relax borders further and pursue two-way quarantine-free travel with New Zealand.
business owners are approaching the potential for more relaxed border controls
with New Zealand with trepidation, and for obvious reasons.
new community cases discovered in New Zealand this week have once again raised
fears about the virus possibly reaching the Cook Islands.
Minister Mark Brown and local government officials have been working with their
Kiwi counterparts on a plan to start two-way quarantine free travel between the
two countries before the end of March this year.
goal received a boost this month when both governments announced that Cook
Islands residents would be allowed to travel without having to undergo
mandatory quarantine in New Zealand.
variants of Covid-19 posing challenges to the global health response and the
pandemic showing no signs of abating, Iriti Maoate of AJ Taxi Service said now
is not the time to relax border controls.
I’m not really in favour of it,” she said. “We’re suffering and our business is
suffering, but we’d rather wait to be in the clear. I’ll be lucky if I get one
or two runs a month, but I’d rather be careful than sorry.”
Maoate, a number of business owners and employees have voiced their concerns
about the potential threats to public health that come with resuming tourism.
them have been recipients of the wage subsidy included in Government’s
three-phase $150 million Economic Response Plan (ERP), which has kept workers
on the job and many businesses from going under.
since receiving an initial sole trader grant, AJ Taxi Services hasn’t been
eligible for the subsidy. “We’re not getting the wage subsidy because of the
way our business is structured, we have had to figure it out ourselves.”
getting by,” she said. “I see people going to bars and getting takeaways, and
wondering if they’re on the subsidy.”
in front of Dive & Surf shop in Avarua, staff member Manu also said the
timing isn’t right. “It’s too soon,” he said.
in Tahiti recently. They are struggling and the hospital facilities here aren’t
as developed from what they have there,” he said.
virus can spread so fast.”
other side of the equation, some businesses and their staff are beginning to
think the risk of opening the border might be a necessity.
Zaire, who works at a souvenir shop in town, there is a fear the country won’t
be able to sustain itself economically without tourists from NZ.
what always seems to be happening: they say we’re going to open and then
something Covid happens,” she said. “We need some people here soon, money is
there’s no more wage subsidy, we won’t be getting paid.”
wage subsidy, which has kept many of the country’s workers on the job and
businesses from shuttering, has been extended to the end of April.
of Finance Secretary Garth Henderson has described forecasting the nation’s
finances as a “moving target”. Government has borrowed $US40 million ($55.5
million) to supplement the budget and further borrowing will be required to
plug holes in upcoming budgets.
business owner Fletcher Melvin has been at the forefront of the private
sector’s Covid-19 response through his role as Chair of the Private Sector
our members are looking to reestablish tourism but we don’t speak on behalf of
all businesses,” he said.
that are willing to stay locked down are the ones that are getting aid and
accessing grants and getting subsidies,” he said. “The ones that aren’t are
bleeding cash and are in a different predicament.”
mandate is to set up a bubble with NZ, but at the end of the day we have to
listen to the officials in New Zealand and the Cook Islands.”
Wednesday, local officials are staying optimistic that two-way travel can be
established by the end of month.
business owner of a transportation company thinks that will be a long shot,
with mid-year being a more realistic target. “I’m hesitant about Covid reaching
our shores, so I’m not for it, and I’m not against,” they said.
business perspective, I’ve written off about half of this year, but that’s just
me. There are a lot of businesses that are bleeding who had already spent
also bleeding, but the health of people is more important than my business