18 Aug 2021

Cook Islands suspends travel bubble with New Zealand

7:09 pm on 18 August 2021

By Cook Islands News /RNZ

The Cook Islands has suspended travel from New Zealand, and anyone who arrived from New Zealand from 11 August is required to isolate and get tested if they have symptoms of Covid-19 or were at locations of interest in New Zealand.

The Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown suspended the travel bubble by shifting the country to alert level 2 from midnight last night (NZ Tuesday), after New Zealand officials reported new Covid-19 cases.

Four community cases were reported in New Zealand overnight, including an Auckland hospital worker, bringing the total to five.

The latest cases have all been linked to Tuesday's first case in Auckland, which is confirmed as the Delta variant.

Cook Island Prime Minister Mark Brown.

Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Following the travel bubble suspension, the Cook Islands Ministry of Health said anyone who arrived from New Zealand from 11 August to Monday 16 (Cook Islands times) must get tested if they were symptomatic, or had been at any of the locations of interest identified by the NZ Ministry of Health (MOH).

By Wednesday evening the MOH site listed 21 locations in Auckland and 14 in Coromandel, but was being updated regularly, so those checking it have been advised to keep checking for additional locations added later.

Tests can be carried out at testing stations in Rarotonga or by scheduling a visit from a health nurse. But the Cooks government said anyone required to be tested must also stay isolated until the test results are known - which can take up to 12 hours.

If a test was positive they would be transferred to a managed isolation facility.

"While the epidemiological variance and transmission link for the community case in New Zealand is still being investigated, we must act swiftly here to minimize exposure risk for the Cook Islands so we remain safe," said prime minister Brown.

The Cook Islands News reported the alert level change meant international passenger arrivals were suspended for 72 hours to Thursday.

This pause on international arrivals would allow Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health to test those who had arrived since 11 August.

Passengers can still return to New Zealand from Rarotonga, and Cook Islands Tourism said Air New Zealand would continue scheduled daily flights from Rarotonga to New Zealand for those returning.

Domestic travel was also suspended to the Pa Enua from Rarotonga for 72 hours, but passengers from the Pa Enua or outer islands can return back to Rarotonga.

"This is a good time to remind ourselves of the need to practice good hygiene measures, and to actively tag in with Cooksafe and Cooksafe+," Brown said.

The Cook Islands Cabinet was scheduled to meet again on Wednesday to consider new updated information received and next steps.

- Cook Island News / RNZ

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