New Zealand will finally open its travel bubble within a week, but Australians won’t be the first to enter the neighboring country.
The country closed its borders to the rest of the world on March 19 after the coronavirus pandemic quickly spread around the world.
The Cook Islands government is scheduled to announce an easing of the rules on Tuesday, meaning New Zealanders can travel to Rarotonga without quarantine.
But without a rule change, those returning to New Zealand will still have to undergo mandatory quarantine at a hotel.
The Cook Islands government (pictured) would announce an easing of the rules on Tuesday, meaning New Zealanders can travel to Rarotonga quarantine-free
There are reports that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (pictured) intervened Monday night and asked to push the announcement back a week
There are reports that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern intervened Monday night and asked to push the announcement back a week, according to Stuff.
It is believed that the announcement was postponed until quarantine-free travel between the two countries could be announced.
Cook Islands Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown told the AM Show that an announcement is expected next week.
However, there is currently no detail as to when the flights to the Cook Islands begin.
“It is imperative that it start earlier than later,” said Brown.
The travel bubble is expected to open before September to boost the economy, as 45 percent of the Cook Islands’ population is subsidized.
“That will run out in September, so we really need to get some exercise in terms of economic activity,” he said.
“We have a few small things to solve with the protocols for crossing the T’s and stippling the I’s. We are confident we can open [announce] an airlift between our two countries next week. ‘
It is believed that the announcement was pushed back until quarantine-free travel could be announced between New Zealand (photo) and the Cook Islands
Brown said officials worked with Auckland Airport and Air New Zealand to ensure that people could fly between the Cook Islands without interacting with other countries.
But Mr. Brown said the islands look forward to welcoming New Zealanders.
A travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand has been on the table since May, but has since been stopped after a massive outbreak in Victoria that plunged Melbourne into a lockdown.
Regular travel between the two allies has been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic and there is no shortage of people eager to return.
Last week, Ms. Ardern revived the plan by saying she is willing to pass it state by state.
She declined to give a timetable, but previously said September is realistic.
Cook Islands (photo) Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown told the AM Show that an announcement is expected next week
The plan would allow residents of states without outbreaks to enter New Zealand without quarantining, but Victorians would still be deported.
The scheme would also depend on states keeping their borders closed to Victorians to ensure they cannot get to New Zealand by driving to another state and then taking a flight.
Ms Ardern said she has set out her requirements and the ball is in Australian court.
“If states continue to have their own border controls … then it is possible. But that’s actually Australia’s call, not ours, “she said last week.
“It comes down to decision-making by Australia itself. We have our criteria for what we need to see – as the country as a whole or by state – to be open.
“Whether they choose to go state by state is a matter for them,” she said.
Mr Brown said officials worked with Auckland Airport and Air New Zealand to ensure that people could fly between the Cook Islands (photo) without interacting with other countries
New Zealand Secretary of State Winston Peters said last month that he wanted to open travel bubbles with some Australian states as soon as possible to revive the economy.
“Let’s not limit the movement between our two countries based on Australia’s slowest state,” he said.
Australia’s federal government is responsible for border controls that currently prohibit Australians from leaving the country.
Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has also said that September is a realistic target date for the start of the travel bubble.
New Zealand is the second largest international tourism market after China with 1.4 million visitors a year, while 1.5 million Australians go to New Zealand every year and represent the province’s largest market.
Before the coronavirus crashed, tourism supported 924,600 jobs in Australia and 229,566 jobs in New Zealand – about eight percent of the workforce in each country – but nearly all of these roles have been affected by the crisis.