Passengers from the Cook Islands will resume quarantine-free travel into New Zealand from next week, the two governments have confirmed.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown have announced the change, which will start from 21 January.
“Following confirmation of the Cook Islands’ Covid free status, and the implementation of strict health and border protocols we are now in the position to resume quarantine-free travel for passengers from the Cook Islands into New Zealand,” Ardern said.
But Ardern said the new arrangements did not apply to New Zealanders wishing to travel to the Cook Islands.
“We said we would take a phased approach to resuming two-way travel and will do so only once all safety protocols can be met,” Ardern said.
Brown said the new arrangements will allow specialist workers and contractors and the judiciary to come to Rarotonga for short terms without the need for two-week quarantine on return.
“There has been a desperate need to clear one year’s worth of court cases due to the inability to conduct trials and hearings before a judge. Private companies have been ham-strung by the inability to bring in specialists for major projects and infrastructure work.”
Brown said he welcomed the support of the New Zealand government to institute the travel corridor.
“This announcement demonstrates the confidence New Zealand has in us, and we will not take that for granted.”
To be eligible to enter the country, people in the Cook Islands must meet some conditions, including not having been overseas outside of the Cook Islands or New Zealand in the past 14 days and not having had contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case within the past 14 days.
They will also need to wear a face covering at the airport at which they arrived in New Zealand.
Public health officials will be undertaking random temperature checks of passengers on all flights arriving from the Cook Islands into New Zealand.
Air New Zealand said flights from the Cook Islands to New Zealand are now on sale.
It will operate two flights per week, departing Rarotonga on Wednesdays and Saturdays using the airline’s A320 fleet.
Air NZ chief executive officer Greg Foran said the travel bubble was “fantastic news”.
“We know many Cook Islanders will be eager to connect with friends and family in New Zealand, and we look forward to seeing what a two-way quarantine-free travel arrangement will look like.”
“We’ve been working closely with both governments, relevant agencies and airports on what is required to keep our customers and staff safe once travel opens up.”