CM – Cook Islands are to be reopened to tourism without a vaccine


The general manager of the Muri Beach Club Hotel, Liana Scott, has a small sideline that sells eggs laid by the family chickens from a refrigerator behind the hotel reception. But that is their main income. Photo: Delivered

The Prime Ministers of New Zealand and the Cook Islands have announced plans to reopen the Pacific nation to tourism from May 17 in New Zealand.

The Cook Islands tourism operators – and almost all of them are up the archipelago – welcome the resumption of quarantine for inbound travel.

Prime Ministers Mark Brown and Jacinda Ardern announced this afternoon that the borders will open in both directions from Monday, May 17, New Zealand time. That’s Sunday in Rarotonga.

Air NZ is promoting economy flights for $ 270 the following day and increasing the frequency of flights to three or four a week from June 7th. Travelers must have spent the last 14 days in New Zealand.

Greg Foran, the airline’s chief executive officer, said it was an important milestone for the two countries. In 2019, of the 446,000 kiwis who made a trip to the Pacific Islands, nearly 110,000 had traveled to Rarotonga. « We are certain that our Cook Island neighbors will welcome kiwis with open arms in an urgent way to stimulate the local economy. »

The newsroom has learned that the health directors of both countries will have a final checklist in the next 14 days have to tick off before the New Zealanders can finally check in their snorkels and things for their flights to Rarotonga.

New Zealand also provides the three imperial nations (Cooks, Niue, Tokelau) with Covid vaccine – but the limited availability of the Pfizer vaccine and the time it takes to train vaccines means the country’s 13,000 residents are unlikely to be vaccinated until after the borders reopen, Graeme West, who is in charge of New Zealand marketing for Cook Islands Tourism, said , the number of visitors had risen to zero when the borders were closed in March 2020. « Since tourism is the mainstay of our economy, it has created significant financial hardship for many people, » he said. « We are very much looking forward to welcoming Kiwis back to our beautiful islands. »

No cases of Covid-19 have been reported in the Cook Islands, and West said the country has made the health and wellbeing of its citizens its top priority. That diligence would now be extended to its visitors.

Contact tracing would play an important role in ensuring travel continued without quarantine, and visitors would be encouraged to use the local Cooksafe and Cooksafe apps.

The reopening took a long time. One date after another was considered abandoned. First, the bubble has been delayed by Covid outbreaks in New Zealand, specifically the South Auckland outbreak last August that hit the New Zealand Cook Islands community and told former Cook Islands Prime Minister Dr. Joe Williams, Killed Your Life.

Then it was further delayed when New Zealand health officials visited and discovered the Pacific nation’s health readiness – contact tracing, regular and nationwide Covid-PCR testing, and more – that were far from being for an influx of tourists ready.

Ardern said the travel bubble would mean families could reconnect, commercial agreements could resume and Kiwis could take a very welcome winter break and support the Cook Islands tourism sector and its recovery .

She added that a lot of work had gone into making sure the two-way bubble was safe and that the Cook Islands were set up and ready for it. « The health and safety of the people of the Cook Islands has always been of paramount importance.

 » Vaccination is not an answer in its own right, but once it is introduced it will provide an extra layer of protection and we will continue to push these plans alongside the Cook Islands . « 

Mark Brown said the two governments were continuing to work on final details for vaccine use in the Cook Islands and expected to provide more details in the next few weeks. « Today we begin our journey of recovery, » he said. « We’re back to business today. »

This morning, Liana Scott, President of the Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council, welcomed the upcoming announcement. Scott manages a large family-owned resort, the Muri Beach Club Hotel, and has not had any international guests since March last year. « We act, but the income doesn’t nearly cover our expenses, » she told Newsroom this morning.

Her family has a small sideline that sells eggs laid by their chickens from a refrigerator behind the hotel reception. But that is their main income. « The egg farm, selling pig feed, does more than the hotel, » she said.

Scott said some of the key changes would be that the tourism business would be able to return to full-time staff at normal rates of employees, paying their ever-increasing bills and expenses, and paying their mortgages. In the Cook Islands, locals pay up to 12 percent interest, but with the closing of the borders last year, nearly 80 percent of the country’s GDP disappeared overnight.

« If we had a magic wand, our priority would be the border open on May 15, 2020 and vaccinate our small population, « said Scott.

It was a shame, she said, that the vaccine could not be introduced in advance because of the small and compact populations of Rarotonga’s main ports and Aitutaki would allow the vaccine to be given to everyone in a matter of days.

Eve Hayden, executive director of the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce, admitted the vaccine would be further away. « Given the slow roll-out in New Zealand, I wouldn’t expect the roll-out here to be imminent, » she said. « However, given the vulnerability of the population, New Zealand might decide to cover the urgency of a rollout to reflect the vulnerable in New Zealand. »

The New Zealand government had considered using the NZ Defense Force to bring the vaccine to the countries of the Empire and this should still be an option for remote islands like Tokelau.

For the Cook Islands, the resumption of tourism and more regular commercial flights means the army and air force may not be needed. However, due to the time it takes to train vaccines in Rarotonga, Aitutaki, and the Outer Islands of the archipelago, the vaccine is taking longer to be introduced.

Cook’s Prime Minister Mark Brown’s explicit preference for the Pfizer Vaccine in place of the AstraZeneca vaccine New Zealand ships to Fiji means further delays as New Zealand awaits deliveries.

New Zealand’s Director General of Health, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, has accepted international approvals allowing the Pfizer vaccine to be stored in normal freezing temperatures longer than in extremely low temperatures of -70 ° C. This will make it logistically easier to roll out to Pacific countries and more remote parts of New Zealand.

Ewan Smith, CEO of Air Rarotonga, said the country’s domestic airline is preparing to distribute the vaccine to the Outer Islands. « We have Aitutaki schedules ready as soon as we know, » he told Newsroom today.

« Like everyone else, we are waiting for fixed dates and don’t want to outdo each other. We just focus on doing our part well, when we get to vaccination. « 

 » The number of days it takes to complete a cycle on the Outer Island depends on how many people they can vaccinate in a day. Except for Aitutaki, everyone has other islands only have one to 200 adults. So I imagine the logistics should be simple The jet reaches the northern group in 2.5 hours. The southern islands are every 45 minutes away. « 

With the passage of New Zealand from With the crisis in recovery mode, the need to support the local industry has been greatly eased.

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