Cook Islands eases its COVID-19 restrictions

Rarotonga Airport.
Rarotonga Airport. Photo credit: Airport Authority Cook Islands

By Eleisha Foon of RNZ

Tourism operators in the Cook Islands are welcoming the government's easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

Australian passport holders can enter the Cook Islands from April 12 and all other travellers from May 1.

Cook Island's Tourism Council President Liana Scott said occupancy rates have been slower this month - around 25-30 percent.

"Really pleased to have the ability for Cook islanders and for tourists or returnees that normally visit us from the US, Australia, Canada come here because they haven't been able to come here for two years, have our Cook Island people return," Scott said.

She said it's been a challenging time with the Omicron outbreak slowing business but next month occupancy rates are set to increase to 55-60 percent.

Easing Covid restrictions

The Cook Islands is softening its Covid restrictions to allow more freedom as it adapts to the virus.

The government is dropping QR scanning, bringing back contact sports and opening its border to Australia.

An 'Essential Worker Pass' is also being introduced to allow people to leave quarantine if they test negative each day in order to go to work.

Health Secretary Bob Williams said those who recover from Covid get a 'Green Freedom Pass' confirming they are safe to re-enter the community.

"And of course we have people living in New Zealand and Australia who still need to come home and that is some of the reasons we are relaxing the requirements.

"Up to now there are still no hospitalisations and all the cases are still in the community. The proposal is that RAT testing will continue," he said.