Coronavirus: Easing restrictions

New Zealand to open travel bubble with Cook Islands on May 17

WELLINGTON • New Zealand will open a travel bubble with the Cook Islands this month, adopting quarantine-free arrangements similar to those already established with Australia, its Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday.

Ms Ardern said the bubble with the South Pacific island state of about 20,000 people would open on May 17 and initially involve about three flights a week.

"Two-way quarantine-free travel is a significant step in both countries' Covid-19 recovery, and a direct result of both New Zealand and the Cook Islands' successful response to the pandemic," she said.

The Cook Islands is one of few places globally to remain coronavirus-free, while New Zealand has eliminated community transmission and recorded 25 deaths in a population of five million.

The Cook Islands is self-governing in "free association" with New Zealand, meaning that while it administers its own affairs, Cook Islanders are both New Zealand citizens and Cook Islands nationals.

As a result, there are more expatriate Cook Islanders living in New Zealand than on the islands.

"(The bubble) will mean families can reconnect, commercial arrangements can resume and Kiwis can take a much-welcomed winter break and support the Cook Islands' tourism sector and recovery," Ms Ardern said.

A travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia opened last month, a major milestone in restarting a global travel industry gutted by the pandemic.

New Zealand opposition leader Ms Judith Collins said Wellington should now prioritise opening travel bubbles with Tonga and Samoa, two Pacific island nations that have detected no community cases of Covid-19.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2021, with the headline 'New Zealand to open travel bubble with Cook Islands on May 17'. Subscribe