COVID-19: Quarantine-free travel bubble between NZ, Cook Islands expected within the week

A quarantine-free, two-way air bridge between the Cook Islands and New Zealand is imminent, Newshub understands.

It follows high-level talks between Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Cook Islands counterpart, Henry Puna.

Speaking to The AM Show on Tuesday, the Cook Islands' deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown said he expects an announcement to be made early next week.

It's expected that travellers will not need to complete 14 days of quarantine or managed isolation after arriving in either nation.

Cook Islands' deputy PM Mark Brown expects the air bridge to be announced and open by early next week.
Cook Islands' deputy PM Mark Brown expects the air bridge to be announced and open by early next week. Photo credit: Getty

"We're looking forward to progress," Brown said. "We've got a few little things to iron out with the protocols in terms of crossing the T's and dotting the I's. We're confident we will be able to open an air bridge between our two countries within the next week.

"We're very grateful that the New Zealand Government has come onboard to look now at establishing the travel air bridge between our two countries. I'm confident we'll have something up and running in the next week.

"The Cook Islands are open for business."

A spokesperson for NZ Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern confirmed discussions had taken place, however there was no set timeframe for a final decision.

“The Prime Minister spoke to the Cook Islands Prime Minister yesterday to convey that she has asked officials to work on timelines for reopening with realm countries. There are no set dates yet, and any speculation at this stage would be very premature. The number one priority will continue to be the safety of both New Zealand and Realm countries. No one wishes to be responsible for COVID entering into the Pacific,” they told Newshub.

Brown said it's imperative that the travel bubble is implemented sooner rather than later, noting that 45 percent of the Cook Islands' working population is currently on a wage subsidy. The subsidy will come to an end in September.

The nation's economy is heavily reliant on tourism, a sector that has suffered severely due to global lockdowns amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"We really need to get some motion in terms of economic activity and tourism... it's the first easy cab off the rank," Brown said.

"We can get that moving very quickly."