According to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand will open a travel bubble with the tiny Cook Islands this month, adopting quarantine-free arrangements similar to those already in place with Australia.
Ardern stated that the bubble with the 20,000-person South Pacific island state would begin on May 17 and would initially include three flights per week.
“Two-way quarantine-free travel is a significant step in both countries’ Covid-19 recovery, and a direct result of both New Zealand and the Cook Islands’ successful response to the pandemic,” she said.
The remote Cook Islands is one of the few remaining coronavirus-free areas in the world, while New Zealand has eliminated community transmission and recorded only 25 deaths in a population of 5 million.
The Cook Islands are self-governing in “free association” with New Zealand, which means that Cook Islanders are both New Zealand citizens and Cook Islands nationals.
As a result, there are more Cook Islander expatriates in New Zealand than on the islands.
“(The bubble) will mean families can reconnect, commercial arrangements can resume and Kiwis can take a much-welcomed winter break and support the Cook Islands’ tourism sector and recovery,” Ardern said.
A long-awaited travel bubble connecting New Zealand and Australia opened last month, and it has been hailed as a major step toward reviving a global travel industry devastated by the pandemic.
Judith Collins, New Zealand's opposition leader, said Wellington should now prioritise opening travel bubbles with Tonga and Samoa, two Pacific island nations where no community cases of Covid-19 have been detected.
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