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Happy to be home

Friday 8 October 2021 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Local, National

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Happy to be home
Steven Kavana, Jill Kavana, Sofia Vea and Teane Ioaba were among 87 people who left Managed Isolation Quarantine (MIQ) at the Edgewater Resort and Spa on Tuesday. SUPPLIED/21100707

It has cost Cook Islands taxpayers $94,000 to fly 87 people from Christchurch to Rarotonga on the first of two repatriation flights.

The costs were confirmed as Cook Islanders who were stranded in Alert Level 2 regions of New Zealand touched down on Rarotonga aboard a charter flight in the early hours of Thursday.

The final cost for the charter flight was $137,435 which would be offset by the passengers who contributed $500 each, Border Easement Taskforce communications manager Karla Eggelton said.

About 60 rooms were prepared at Edgewater Resort and Spa where the group entered into a least seven days of Managed Isolation Quarantine (MIQ).

All passengers were required to present a negative pre-departure Covid-19 test and during their MIQ period, they need to clear day zero and day five tests for Covid-19. The group cleared the day zero tests – all came back negative yesterday.

Eggelton said the Border Easement Taskforce would have a better idea of MIQ related costs for the first flight, classified as ‘Cohort # 1’ for the purposes of managed return, once MIQ for the cohort had been completed.

Jaewynn McKay, from the Office of the Prime Minister, was at Rarotonga International Airport to meet the flight.

McKay said the aircraft touched down about 2.40am with the last transport bus taking passengers from the airport to the Edgewater about 4am.

Jill Kavana, her husband Steven Kavana, along with family friends Sofia Vea and Teane Ioaba were among the 87 who arrived and made their way to MIQ.

Speaking from the Edgewater on Thursday, Jill said it all went “smoothly”.

Jill had been in Nelson to move her parents into a rest home while Steven had been in Tauranga for an operation when the border closed in August.

The couple made their way to Christchurch about two weeks ago as authorities co-ordinated the repatriation flight.

They managed to get to sleep about 5.30am on Thursday after they arrived at MIQ, were greeted by staff and offered a meal.

“We have been spoiled,” she said. 

In a statement, Secretary of Health Bob Williams said: “I want to thank not only my own staff but all those who were on duty last night and who worked together to ensure the safety of everyone. And of course, there are a number of individuals who together with MFAI (Foreign Affairs and Immigration) and our Ministry of Finance and Economic Management have been working towards the safe return of our people for almost two months both in Aotearoa and here, once again this has been a superb team effort and I say meitaki maata to all involved.

“Last night’s (Thursday morning) operation has set us up well for the return of the second cohort. So too are the efforts of the Edgewater staff, operations, and security supported by the Puaikura Puna Security and also the restaurant staff who are preparing meals for all the returnees and all those involved in the operation at MIQ.”

On Thursday October 14, the second repatriation flight of an about 300 qualifying people currently sheltering in the Auckland region at Alert Level 3 is scheduled to arrive on Rarotonga.

That group will enter into at least 14 days of MIQ at the Edgewater Resort and will have additional Covid-19 testing.

Both groups undergo a Covid-19 test 72 hours before departure, as well as a health screening test at the airport before boarding.

Guests repatriating need to sign an agreement when they arrive to the managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility. A breach of the quarantine requirements could result in 12 months imprisonment or a fine not exceeding $10,000.

Meals will be provided and individuals will be given the opportunity to exercise outdoors, however guests are not allowed to swim in the pool.

Laundry services will be provided along with laundry facilities being made available for those with further needs.

Health officials will be on standby and returnees will receive daily health checks.

Guests won’t be able to see people in MIQ but are allowed drop off food and personal items except alcohol at the Edgewater reception.

Items will be inspected prior to delivery to rooms, hotel security or police will make sure items are not a health and safety risk.

Edgewater staff will make deliveries to the guests around mealtimes at 7am, 11am and 5pm.

Te Marae Ora yesterday said: “A reminder to anyone dropping off provisions for friends or family currently in MIQ at the Edgewater, to please put any food in reusable containers that can be taken out when the guest leaves MIQ. This would help greatly in limiting the amount of rubbish public health officers need to handle.”

Once all criteria is met and approval is granted by Te Marae Ora, returning Cook Islanders will be permitted to leave the MIQ facility.