Local resident Harry Beston says he is happy the Australian border has reopened. PHOTO: SIAN SOLOMON/22022205
Australia reopened its border to all fully vaccinated visa holders on February 20, welcoming the return of international travellers and other visitors for the first time in nearly two years.
The country closed its borders to
almost everyone except Aussie citizens and residents in March 2020, in an attempt
to slow surging Covid-19 case numbers.
The travel ban, which also barred
citizens from travelling overseas without an exemption, and imposed a strict
cap on international arrivals earned the country the nickname "Fortress
However, travellers and other visitors
will now be allowed to enter all states and territories with no quarantine or
exemption required, apart from Western Australia, which isn’t set to reopen
until March 3.
Those travellers who are not fully
vaccinated will still require a valid travel exemption to enter the country and
will be subject to state and territory quarantine requirements.
In a statement issued on Friday,
Australian High Commissioner Dr Christopher Watkins said that Australians were
“excited” to be reconnected with their Cook Island neighbours.
Watkins said that the border reopening
will “reconnect families” who have been divided by the Covid-19 pandemic.
He added that Cook Islanders will be
able to visit other Australian based Cook Islanders without needing to spend
time in New Zealand, before travelling to the country.
Watkins went on to say that it is an
important step towards restarting direct flights between both countries, which “can
now happen whenever (the) Cook Islands decide it is safe to do so.”
However, he said the process of
returning from Australia to the Cook Islands through New Zealand remains
subject to the rules of those governments.
“With Covid numbers coming down in
Australia, and vaccination rates high in both countries, hopefully, it is not
long before direct flights resume,'' said Watkins.
With the border now reopened to all vaccinated
travellers, it means Cook Island resident and Australian ex-pat Harry Beston will
be able to see his family and friends for the first time in almost a
Beston said it had been a struggle not
having the comfort of being able to return home to his native country for a
He said that during Covid-19, he wasn’t
eager to visit friends and family, but now that Covid-19 had become
“normalised” and vaccination numbers are high, he feels more comfortable about
the idea of travelling home to Australia for a holiday.
He said he thinks it is good that fully
vaccinated people won't have to apply for a travel exemption, making the
process easier and less stressful.
“Not having the comfort of returning
home to visit friends and family whenever I wanted has been a bit of a
struggle,'' he said.
“It's been hard because my Nan was
admitted to hospital recently, and I wanted to go and visit her, but I guess
with Covid I probably wouldn’t have been able to anyway.
“Luckily, I (have) felt pretty safe here
in the Cook Islands, considering how Covid-19 was going overseas.”
Beston, who works in hospitality and
tourism, says he has tried not to think about what he might have missed since
being away from Australia.
He said he hopes to return to the
Australian Capital Territory (ACT) where his family lives at some point, but adds
that he doesn't know when yet.
He said that after seeing his family
and his friends, the first thing he will do when he arrives in Australia is go
“I want to get more of a variety of
stuff that you can’t get here, like clothes and Xbox games.
“So once I see them (family and
friends) it will be shopping for sure.”