OPINION: Facing the world with vigilance, diligence and safety

Tuesday 4 May 2021 | Written by Supplied | Published in Editorials, Opinion

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OPINION: Facing the world with vigilance, diligence and safety
Prime Minister Mark Brown shows off the Cook Islands’ Covid-19 contact tracing app, CookSafe+. PHOTO: Office of the Prime Minister.

The opening of our border with New Zealand will see much-needed tourism dollars flow to every one of our islands, both directly and indirectly through government projects and economic support, writes Prime Minister Mark Brown.

By now I imagine almost all of you will have heard that our border is set to open for two-way quarantine-free travel with New Zealand from May 16.

Less than two weeks from now, all going according to plan, the first tourists to visit our shores in more than a year will be stepping off the plane at Rarotonga International Airport.

I have no doubt there will be an incredibly warm welcome awaiting them.

As I said on Sunday in my official announcement, the decision to close our borders to the world in March 2020 was a difficult one – but necessary, absolutely necessary. Time has certainly told that our government’s swift action at that crucial point made all the difference.

And while that decision has come at a substantial economic cost to our country and to our people, it also ensured that our country and our people were protected from the Covid-19 pandemic that even now continues to encircle the globe.

As Covid-19 still threatens the health, safety and livelihoods of millions around the world, we here in the Cook Islands remain one of less than a dozen independent nations who have yet to record a single case. Just another reason to count ourselves lucky to be Cook Islanders.

But it was not by luck, by chance or coincidence that we remain Covid-free. How could it be? Instead it was through diligence and hard work that this occurred – and it is diligence and hard work that will set us on the road to economic recovery.

I know that many of us have made sacrifices and worked hard to stay afloat this past year, doing what was necessary to get by in these troubled times, while also doing our best to lift up those around us as well.

Your government has done what it can to support you over this period, but at the end of the day it is you who have done the hard yards, and for your continued trust in your government’s leadership I would like to express my deepest gratitude.

The resilience seen over the past year has been nothing short of extraordinary, and I want to thank you for keeping the faith amidst all the uncertainty. No one could have predicted the far-reaching and ongoing effects of Covid-19 – it has truly been a world-changing event of staggering proportions.

But now, let us look to the future.

I will say this – the hard work is not over.

While the opening of our border with New Zealand will see much-needed tourism dollars flow to every one of our islands, both directly and indirectly through government projects and economic support, we cannot become complacent.

Our continued open border with New Zealand depends on our continued vigilance against the threat of Covid-19. We must continue to be vigilant, to be diligent, and above all to be safe.

Follow the health and safety protocols, maintain good basic hygiene habits, tag in everywhere you go with your CookSafe QR card and make sure you download the new CookSafe+ app. All simple actions that will make a world of difference to all Cook Islanders.

Finally, one last reminder – when it comes to rebuilding the national economy, each and every one of us has a part to play in our recovery journey.

Whether you are a major tourism operator retraining staff and refreshing your facilities in preparation for our imminent new arrivals, a checkout operator in the supermarket or a mama selling nu at the Punanga Nui Market, you all represent the face, the voice, the spirit of the Cook Islands – and less than two weeks from today we turn that face towards the world.

Let’s show them that we mean business.

Kia Manuia.