27 Jan 2021

Passengers to defer flight as Cooks allows time for test results

2:49 pm on 27 January 2021

The Cook Islands government is taking a 'wait and see' approach to the resumption of passenger flights from New Zealand.

Thirty Cook Islanders who were planning to travel to Rarotonga today have been advised by the government to defer their departure to the next scheduled Air New Zealand flight to their country on Saturday.

The deferral came after the Cooks cabinet met last night to discuss the ramifications of the recent community case of Covid-19 in Northland, New Zealand.

Cook Islands Finance Minister Mark Brown

Cook Islands finance minister Mark Brown Photo: Cook Islands News

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown said the government was working closely with New Zealand's health authorities, and had decided to wait for further test results related to the Northland case to come back.

"Cabinet appreciates the inconvenience and is able to advise that Air New Zealand will transfer bookings over at no cost," Brown said.

"With the remaining test results in mind the Cook Islands is taking its lead from New Zealand in allowing more time for further test results to come in before we can reassure the public one way or the other of the extent of the spread."

The Cook Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration has accordingly amended its travel advisory, saying that there will be no exemptions provided for entry into the Cook Islands for a period of 72 hours, ending 11:59pm this Thursday.

All requests for entry into the Cook Islands must be sought from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration.

The Cook Islands High Commission in Wellington said the government hadn't ruled out further deferral of flights if case numbers changed.

The deferral has not affected today's flight from Rarotonga to Auckland, the third since quarantine-free travel in that direction resumed last week.

It's too early to know whether the evolving covid-19 situation in New Zealand will disrupt a recent projection by both governments that a full two-way travel bubble should be in place by the end of March.

But as Brown acknowledged, "this is essentially the look of travel in 2021, certainty of travel cannot be guaranteed".

"We all need to appreciate that there are risks whenever we choose to travel abroad."