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Govt announces process for managed returns of residents

Tuesday 14 September 2021 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Local, National

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Govt announces process for  managed returns of residents
Health officials at Rarotonga International Airport greeting returnees from Auckland last year. 20091830

Plans are in place to bring home stranded Cook Islanders in Auckland and other parts of New Zealand but no date has been set for the first repatriation flight.

The Cook Islands Cabinet have approved the Managed Returns Plan for Cook Islands residents stranded in New Zealand following the current ‘Delta outbreak’ in Auckland and resultant suspension on inwards international arrivals since August 16.

To date, the Cook Islands Government, through the Cook Islands High Commission in Wellington, has been engaged with some 350 residents currently sheltering in New Zealand.

The residents have registered for managed return to the Cook Islands, with 125 of these being in regions outside of Auckland.

In a statement, the Border Easement Taskforce chair Tepaeru Herrmann said: “The return of our Cook Islands residents who have been stranded in New Zealand since the first detection of Case A and the resultant suspension of inwards international arrivals from New Zealand has been a priority of our Cabinet and therefore the Border Easement Taskforce (BET) including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) since the 16 August.”

“The Plan approved by Cabinet will focus on a first cohort comprising those currently sheltering in place outside the Auckland region on a flight from Wellington or Christchurch.”

With Cabinet approval of the Managed Returns Plan, MFAI is working closely with Te Marae Ora – Ministry of Health (TMO), Air New Zealand and New Zealand agencies for the early and safe return of the 125 sheltering in regions outside Auckland.

Based on pre-registration information, Cook Islands residents sheltering in regions outside Auckland will be contacted directly to formally apply for managed return via completion of the ‘Cook Islands Managed Return Application Form’.

A negative Covid-19 test result within 72 hours prior to departure as well as mandatory completion of the ‘Online Contact Information Form’ will be required. A period of at least seven-days in Managed Isolation Quarantine (MIQ) on arrival into Rarotonga will also be required.

Prime Minister Mark Brown in his announcement last night said Cook Islands residents sheltering in Auckland must wait for the alert level to drop to Level 2 or below before repatriation can commence from Auckland.

“I want to thank our people who have pre-registered for return home with our High Commission for their continued patience as we work to ensure their safe return whilst preventing Covid-19 and specifically the delta variant from reaching the Cook Islands,” said Herrmann, who is also the Secretary for Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration.

“We extend our appreciation also to our partners in New Zealand, various New Zealand entities and our Cook Islands communities who have since the onset of Covid, bolstered our capacity to deliver some assistance to our people awaiting return.

"Should additional assistance be required by those stranded, we urge continued engagement with our High Commission in the first instance (at dhc@cookhicom.org.nz ) and further information will be forthcoming in the coming days around enhanced support to those awaiting repatriation.”

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