The May 16 two-way quarantine free travel announcement brings mixed feelings; people are pleased that businesses will receive the much-needed boost but are concerned it’s putting the health of Cook Islanders on the line.
“There are two sides to the coin,” said
Davina Ashford, as she walked out of CITC shopping centre yesterday, “I guess
you’re damned either way.”
Ashford wants the border open but wants the
vaccine first, as another level of protection.
Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown and
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Sunday announced the commencement
of the travel bubble from May 16 (Cooks time) pending final confirmation from
the heads of health ministries of the two countries.
Rarotonga resident Ashford said she wasn’t
confident in the medical facilities or border measures if the virus was to
The trans-Tasman bubble between New Zealand
and Australia has also made matters more unsettling for Ashford.
“We will be in a bubble with Australia
too,” she said.
Australians will have to spend two-weeks in
New Zealand before they make the trip to the Cook Islands if they wish to come.
Ashford knows this, but indirectly still
feels we are now sharing the same space.
She referred to the Cook Islander last week
who breached trans-Tasman requirements by flying from Rarotonga to Perth via
Auckland without spending 14 days in New Zealand.
She said if a mistake could happen that
way, what’s stopping it from happening in reverse?
A woman who works at the gift and souvenir
store, Treasure Chest, said she’s happy the borders will open but wanted the
pre-departure Covid tests to remain in place, which will no longer be a
requirement when the bubble comes into play.
She would also prefer New Zealanders to be
vaccinated before coming to Rarotonga.
Another woman who worked in the same store
asked: “Are we ready for this, are hospitals and everything ready for whatever
is coming through that door?”
“Or are we just waiting for the money to
come through, not caring about our people?”
Sitting outside of Foodland, Ngaro Iripa
said the border was important for the economy but didn’t think it should be
“I don’t really agree that the border
should be open now, it’s too early.”
Iripa doesn’t want the vaccine but thinks when
the world settles down “maybe next year” it could be time to open the borders.
Running his food store at the Punanga Nui
Market, Clerk Tangiura Turua said he’s got two thoughts on the borders.
“The yes is for our business people, they
need to revive their businesses and all that. The no is we don’t want the
Covid-19 to come.”
Turua said: “I pity our business people.”
But he doesn’t think it’s a good idea to rush.
“We don’t know if it’s safe to open our
border and New Zealand to come.
Turua said: “They’re not sure, they’re not
Defence lawyer, Norman George in a letter
to the editor to Cook Islands News on April 8 said the population needed to be
vaccinated first. Yesterday George said his position is the same and he
absolutely still wants the vaccines before the borders open. In Sunday’s
announcement, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said vaccines were
likely to come this month. George said: “It is a great relief to say it’s
coming”. But he would have preferred for it to come before May 16.
The Opposition Democratic Party wants
vaccines to be administered before the opening of the border to Kiwi tourists.
Media spokesperson for the party, Flo
Syme-Buchanan said, “the position remains unchanged”. On Sunday, Prime Minister
Mark Brown told the Cook Islands News that a vaccine before the bubble opened
would have been an extra layer of protection, but not necessary.
“We’ve always been confident that our
health preparedness was at a level we could commence travel without the need
for vaccination,” Brown said.
“Vaccination will no doubt provide us with
an additional layer of protection for our people but if everything goes
according to plan, we’re also looking at May for the arrival of vaccines into
the country, so we can start the vaccination programme.”