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16 January 2021

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Letter: Book your NZ quarantine now

Saturday 14 November 2020 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion

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"Although we have no virus in Rarotonga, this easy access to New Zealand has been cut off for the last seven months unless we submit to the same quarantine that applies to people coming from countries such as India and Russia where the virus is rampant. "

Many of us see Auckland as our city and not as a foreign country. We go there for our schooling, for our personal and business shopping, for our health check-ups and occasionally treatment, to visit our families, for work and sometimes just for a holiday.

Although we have no virus in Rarotonga, this easy access to New Zealand has been cut off for the last seven months unless we submit to the same quarantine that applies to people coming from countries such as India and Russia where the virus is rampant.

The cost of quarantine is beyond most families and now it gets worse. Limits on numbers being taken into quarantine mean you have to book ahead to get to Auckland, and it turns out that is not easy. I recently tried to book to go to NZ so I could spend Xmas with my family while having my annual check-up. The instructions said to book the quarantine first, then book the flight, and then within 48 hours go back and register the flight with quarantine. The first available date was 23 January so I booked my quarantine for that date. I then paid for my ticket, and went back to the Quarantine site and attempted to register my flight.

Unfortunately, the drop-down menu on the quarantine site did not show my flight, but the instructions said I had to go back to my airline. I phoned Air New Zealand in NZ and explained the problem. They said they had passed the information to Quarantine and they could do nothing more. I then emailed Quarantine explaining the problem but no reply. Next day I emailed Quarantine again saying it was urgent as the 48-hour time limit for registering my flight was running out-again no reply. I then phoned Quarantine and was put on hold for 40 minutes after which I gave up. I then received an email from Quarantine telling me my booking for quarantine was now cancelled because I didn’t register my flight in time. 

I have gone back to the Quarantine site every day (I told you I am very patient!) to see if there is any space for quarantine for January 23, the date for my ticket. On Wednesday morning I was successful and the Quarantine website also showed the flight number so Noovai and I are now booked to go into quarantine for two weeks on January 23.

But there are only a few gaps left so if you are a student planning to go to school or university in NZ next year, you better book your quarantine now. You have probably already missed out your enrolment date and you don’t want to lose a whole semester.

This all strikes me as pretty stupid, even more so when we don’t have the virus. It is also creating a dangerous situation for our elderly, many of whom would be safer in NZ because of our basic health facilities. So why not set up protocols to allow Cook Islanders to travel to NZ now without quarantine, as a first step in opening the border between NZ and Rarotonga, and NZ and the world? 

Reuben Tylor

Vaimaanga