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Onus on travellers to the Cook Islands to have a valid Covid test

Wednesday 23 February 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Pacific Islands, Regional

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Onus on travellers to the Cook Islands to have a valid Covid test
Photo: RNZ / Katie Todd

The onus of showing a negative Covid test falls on travellers to the Cook Islands. A negative test with a time stamp must be shown before travellers can board any flights to Rarotonga.

Last week several travellers to Rarotonga were left stranded at Auckland airport, due to missing time stamps on their negative Covid PCR tests.

A paramount chief in the Cook Islands Pa Ariki was one of those travellers. During the pre-flight check-in process on Monday 14th Feburary, she was told her covid test, which had been authorised by a Doctor, was invalid because it didn't include the time, despite showing the date.

She explained that no one from the lab in Mount Wellington was available to validate the test with the airline in time for her to board her flight.

"It wasn't the time that's important. The thing is we tested negative and we're going home. That's what I'd like to question this government and my government. Why is this timing on it important our tests were negative," she said.

The invalid Covid test had cost Pa Ariki $210. She then had to pay $150 for another Covid test, as well as purchasing a new plane ticket to fly home.

She hoped other travellers would not face the same frustrations.

A New Zealand Ministry of Health spokesperson said pre-departure tests were not part of New Zealand's health response.

"They are undertaken by private entities in response to requirements set by the Cook Islands authorities and accredited private labs provide tests for international departure tests."

Departure can only go ahead if tests for Covid-19 are negative, done within 48-hours, and must include the person's name, date of birth or passport number, a time and date the test was taken, the lab name, type of test and test result. -

Cook Island waters
Cook Island waters Photo: Joachim Tau

All visitors to the Cook Islands must also have an international travel vaccination certificate, a RT-PCR Covid-19 negative test result and must complete a travel declaration form no more than 96 hours before the scheduled departure time of their flight in order to access a CookSafe QR code.

The Cook Island government was aware of people being turned away when travelling from New Zealand, due to a time not being included in their negative covid tests results.

The Cook Island Health Secretary Bob Williams said that the requirements to board a flight to Rarotonga were clearly stated online and it was a traveller's responsibility to make sure they were met. Mr Williams also said the government would not be compensating those travellers.

Meanwhile, Pa Ariki believes her experience was unfortunate and "unfair."

She stated that testing labs should know the requirements for international travel, so this doesn't happen again to other travellers - especially those who could not meet the cost of new tests and new airline tickets.