Man stranded in Cook Islands during pandemic has no plans to leave

If you could be stranded anywhere in the world while the pandemic was going on, it's probably a good guess to say a fair few of you wouldn't mind a tropical Island. 

That did happen to some lucky people who ended up riding out the last year in the Cook Islands. 

It's not exactly Castaway, but being stuck in the Cook Islands when COVID-19 broke out did make Emmanuel Samoglou feel very far from his home in Canada. 

"It's a good place to be stranded. It's quite picturesque, the climate is good, so I'm very grateful for that," says Samoglou.

He and his family were on a round-the-world trip and was meant to go home from New Zealand but decided on a quick trip to Rarotonga.

"That's when the borders shut so we came as tourists and things moved on from there."

He's been working at the Cook Islands News ever since and has no foreseeable plans to leave. 

But it hasn't all been paradise here during the last year. Many Cook Islanders, especially those working in tourism, had little choice but to apply for jobs in New Zealand instead. 

The Cook Islands Government has yet to do the numbers on exactly how many have done that but in January when Cook Islanders were allowed to fly to New Zealand quarantine-free, 1000 left and only 290 returned in the first month. 

Cook Islander Bredina Drollet returned far earlier than that. She's been working in Manila for the Asia Development Bank which helps with loans for countries so she has a good idea how bad it was about to get. 

"I caught the last flight from Manila to Auckland to make my way home. I got stuck with some of the quarantine arrangements in New Zealand but landed in Rarotonga in June last year and it was the best decision," says Drollet.

Those who decided to leave instead and take up fruit picking and freezing works jobs had little choice at the time. 

But with the bubble reopening with New Zealand, riding out the pandemic in paradise is suddenly far more viable.