COVID-19: Cook Islands travel bubble announcement expected on Monday

May is the month the Government has circled for a Pacific bubble and Cook Islands officials may have given an early clue. 

Newshub has learned there will be an announcement on Monday. 

For many businesses, it's been a long time coming and optimism has been premature in the past. 

This time the Cook Islands testing laboratory that has been one of the biggest barriers to a bubble is set to be up and running in just over a week. 

The Cook Islands Health Ministry has been busy installing equipment which has delayed the completion of a lab that will process COVID-19 tests locally. 

"The trainer for the lab staff is in the country and training has begun, so that part of it has been covered off and I understand they are going to go live on May 10 so not very far off at all," says Eve Hayden from the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce. 

May 10 is the same date Air New Zealand is ramping up its operations to the Islands but they say that's just tentative until they find out when the bubble is opening. 

A list of work that first had to be completed was given to the Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown when he visited a month ago and on Thursday he said it's been a priority. 

"I cannot and will not sacrifice safety for the sake of expediency, my officials, therefore, have been instructed to work at pace so we can achieve both."

Brown's cabinet met today to decide whether that work is now complete. 

"They will be putting that onto the New Zealand cabinets table on Monday and then following that I guess there will be a joint statement from the New Zealand Prime Minister and our Prime Minister," says Hayden. 

Jacinda Ardern confirmed on Friday there will be more to say soon: "Whilst we haven't made announcements today we will have more to say next week."

In the meantime, the Cook Islands red cross has been training extra volunteers if needed for contact tracing. 

"It will never be 100 percent but we are doing our best here in the Cook Islands to make sure that our visitors arrive when the border opens in a safe way," says Fine Tuitupou-Arnold from Red Cross Cook Islands.