Prime Minister Mark Brown in New Zealand. STUFF/ 21032943
Last week we shared with New Zealand officials the reality on the state of our economy and the interventions required to support our economic recovery in the coming months, writes Prime Minister Mark Brown.
I hope you have
all enjoyed the weekend spending time with anau and friends and celebrating the Resurrection
of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
the meantime, we believe we are also close to resurrecting our ailing economy
by shortly being able to reopen our borders to visitors from New Zealand.
When the Cook
Islands were declared a Covid-19 free zone almost a year ago, on 16 April,
Government’s strategy was and continues to be, to strengthen efforts on
mitigating the public health risk at the border between the Cook Islands and
New Zealand. In other words, ‘keep it out’.
We continue to
learn more about this virus every day. This has been helped by the
unprecedented sharing of information across the world and in particular between
New Zealand Health officials and our own.
So we are
confident that our high level of health preparedness and rapid response in
close collaboration with New Zealand will firstly, greatly reduce the risk of Covid
entering the country, and secondly include containment measures that can be
initiated quickly should they be needed.
Two weeks ago, my
delegation and I experienced first-hand, the border preparedness at Auckland
International Airport; the “green lanes” provide for safe border entry and
departure without mixing with
transit passengers or returnees heading for MIQ. Dedicated airline and airport
staff for “green lane travellers” are also kept from mixing with other airline
and airport staff. This is what visitors will experience when coming here once
we open our border and it has been heartening to see first-hand and experience
the levels of protection at the border.
A major part of our visit to Aotearoa was sharing the
extent of our health and border readiness endeavours over the last 12 months. Secretary
of Health Bob Williams and his colleagues, who return home next week, are
working in Wellington with New Zealand Ministry of Health officials to complete
final reviews of both countries Covid health surge response and contingency
arrangements, which will support the Quarantine Free Travel Arrangement.
Secretary Williams and his team have also visited the
Trentham Army Vaccination Centre last week to see first-hand New Zealand’s
vaccine roll-out. This work will help finalise our own vaccination and roll-out
plan, including transport and coordination details for when the vaccine becomes
available to us.
By the time I pen my next column the setup of a
special laboratory that will significantly improve Cook Islands’ Covid-19
testing capabilities should be complete. The reverse-transcription polymerase
chain reaction (RT-PCR) test is the gold standard for Covid-19 testing
As we have seen in
New Zealand and other counties who have been successful at keeping Covid-19
under control, even without community transmission, we must continue to remind
ourselves about the safety measures we can take to protect our families and
communities. This needs to be everyone’s responsibility, not just the government.
Last week we
shared with New Zealand officials the reality on the state of our economy and
the interventions required to support our economic recovery in the coming
In the coming
weeks, together with the team of officials, I will work to capitalise on the
meetings held in New Zealand, converting undertakings from discussions into
reality, not just with respect to health preparedness but also our recovery
Much work has been
undertaken this past year by the whole country, however, we have not been able
to do this on our own and we will need the continued help of our people, the
Aronga Mana, Religious Advisory Council, NGOs, my parliamentary colleagues, the
Private Sector, youth, our Puna, and Pa Enua. Only by working together will we
overcome the obstacles for our country to recover and grow.