The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Mark Brown have announced passengers from the Cook Islands can resume quarantine-free travel into New Zealand from 21 January, enabling access to essential services such as health.
"Following confirmation of the Cook Islands' COVID free status, and the implementation of strict health and border protocols we are now in the position to resume quarantine-free travel for passengers from the Cook Islands into New Zealand," Jacinda Ardern said.
Prime Minister Mark Brown said, "Cook Islanders look forward to quarantine-free entry to New Zealand to enable access to essential services, in the lead up to resuming free movement of people in both directions. I welcome the support of and joint effort with the New Zealand Government to institute this safe travel corridor which will enable essential health, education, economic and social connections for the first time in many months for our people."
"Both countries continue to take a very careful approach to managing our borders and preventing the spread of COVID remains our paramount concern. As such strict protocols will be in place including pre-departure health requirements and separation from other travellers at Auckland International Airport," Jacinda Ardern said. "New Zealand and the Cook Islands are united in our commitment to protect our communities from COVID-19."
Today's announcement does not change the criteria for entry into the Cook Islands which is limited to Cook Islanders and current holders of Cook Islands work and residence permits who meet Cook Islands health entry requirements.
"These arrangements do not apply to New Zealanders wishing to travel to the Cook Islands. We said we would take a phased approach to resuming two-way travel and will do so only once all safety protocols can be met," Jacinda Ardern said.
Officials of both governments are committed to working towards ensuring all safety protocols and response capabilities are in place for the resumption of two-way quarantine free travel between the two countries within the first quarter of 2021.
Further information on safety protocols for travel
To be eligible to enter New Zealand, people in the Cook Islands must meet particular conditions, including:
- not having been overseas outside of the Cook Islands or New Zealand in the past 14 days;
- not having had contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case within the past 14 days;
- having maintained physical distancing (to the greatest extent practicable) from any person, at the airport at which they arrive, who did not arrive from the Cook Islands;
- having worn a face covering while in the airport at which they arrived in New Zealand; and
- there are no reasonable grounds (as determined by a suitably qualified health practitioner) to suspect that the person may have COVID-19. That might include, among other things:
having had contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case within the past 14 days;
having any COVID-19 symptoms; and
be awaiting a COVID-19 test result
New Zealand public health officials will be undertaking random temperature checks of passengers on all flights arriving from the Cook Islands into New Zealand.
Auckland Airport will use a streamlined Safe Travel Path to process passengers arriving quarantine-free from the Cook Islands. The Safe Travel Path creates separation from other arriving passengers by giving Cook Islands flights exclusive use of the international terminal for arrivals processing - with no other arriving flights within 90 minutes either side of the scheduled arrival time.
The Safe Travel Path is created by:
- Using flight scheduling to ensure no other international flights arrive within 90 minutes either side of an arriving Cook Islands flight
- Rigorous cleaning of terminal areas along the Safe Travel Path between flights
- Escorting passengers off Cook Islands flights when terminal cleaning has concluded and following an arrivals path through the terminal marked out with stanchions and barriers
- Dedicated border processing lanes and facilities, which will be blocked off when not in use by Cook Islands passengers
- A baggage reclaim carousel and baggage trolleys used exclusively by travellers arriving quarantine-free from the Cook Islands. When not in use the carousel will be blocked off and trolleys will be sanitised and stored ready for the next Cook Islands flight
- A double-layer physical barrier in the public area of the arrivals hall blocking access to the terminal exit path used by travellers going into managed isolation or quarantine.
Before returning to the Cook Islands passengers will need to undertake a COVID-19 test within 96 hours of their flight departing, which must be negative and complete the exit health clearance process at Auckland International Airport.