Major announcement imminent, sources say

Saturday 1 May 2021 | Written by Emmanuel Samoglou | Published in Local, National

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Major announcement imminent, sources say
Prime Minister Mark Brown welcomed to New Zealand by Minister Jacinda Ardern in March. PHOTO: RYAN ANDERSON/STUFF

Sources are speculating an upcoming announcement could see either a date set for a travel bubble with New Zealand or solid plans put in place for a Covid-19 vaccination programme, but the Government is staying tight-lipped for now.

Following media speculation in New Zealand, Cook Islands News has learnt government is preparing for an imminent announcement on opening the border.

Sources within and close to the government have told this newspaper that officials are planning to make an announcement on Sunday afternoon, after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern holds a Cabinet meeting.

When asked for details, a Cook Islands government official said: “It is hoped a joint announcement will be made shortly to update information regarding quarantine free travel.”

“The day and time is yet to be confirmed.”

Private Sector Taskforce chair Fletcher Melvin said he was told by a government source the border could be opened to Kiwi travellers around May 15.

He speculated any announcement could also concern a Covid-19 vaccination programme, which Prime Minister Mark Brown has targeted to begin in May.

“If it’s going to be a bubble opening announcement, the private sector will be relieved,” said Melvin.

This week, government ministries and agencies were working at pace to have systems in place for two-way, quarantine-free travel with New Zealand.

When asked, one staff member of Te Marae Ora (TMO) Ministry of Health described the preparations as “hectic”.

A team from New Zealand’s Ministry of Health is currently in Rarotonga for two weeks to assist the health ministry with health readiness planning.

A PCR lab, which is central to mass testing capabilities for Covid-19, is expected to be in operation during the second week of May, and TMO staff have been conducting training on contact tracing.

It is understood PM Brown was delivered a final assessment of readiness from government’s border easement taskforce on Thursday.

PM Ardern told Newshub more information on the matter will be revealed next week. "Whilst we haven't made announcements today we will have more to say next week,” she was reported as saying on Friday.

Air New Zealand’s website currently has seats for sale on flights to Rarotonga as of May 10.