The original announcement of quarantine free travel between New Zealand and the Cook Islands on 17 May 21 was a welcome one, although short lived. From 14 January 2022 (New Zealand time) the Cook Islands Bubble is scheduled to reopen to New Zealanders – with some additional requirements following New Zealand’s Delta Outbreak. As a nation that relies so heavily on tourism, our thoughts are with our friends and colleagues in the Cook Islands as they look to rebuild for a second time.
What Does The Bubble Mean
From 17 May 21 (NZ time) the Cook Islands allowed New Zealanders to travel to the Cook Islands without any quarantine measures. The local tourism industry managed the reopening well with guests reporting few negative effects of the extended first border lockdown. Following the Delta outbreak in New Zealand, the Cook Islands again closed its borders and focussed on vaccination. 96% of eligible Cook Islands are now vaccinated (at the time of writing) which gave the Cook Islands’ government the confidence to plan to reopen its borders to New Zealanders from 14 January 22 (New Zealand time), with the following new requirements:
- Travellers will be required to be fully vaccinated or provide a certified medical exemption. This means that only those aged over 12 years will be able to travel until New Zealand begins its vaccination of children.
- Travellers will need to show a negative COVID-19 test, taken no more than 72 hours before departure.
- Travel to Aitutaki is permitted, with the only requirement being that travellers will undergo a Rapid Antigen Test before boarding their flight from Rarotonga to Aitutaki. A further test may be required on Aitutaki.
- Travellers will be required to complete a Cook Islands contact form no more than 72 hours before departing New Zealand. To assist with tracing in the Cook Islands, travellers will be required to also download the Cooksafe+ Bluetooth app as well as use their personal Cooksafe QR code card given on arrival.
In addition to these new requirements, the following pre-departure restrictions were already in place:
- Have spent a minimum of 14 days in either New Zealand or the Cook Islands before their departure.
- Have not had a positive COVID-19 test in the 14 days before departure.
- Not be waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test taken in the past 14 days.
- Complete the New Zealand Nau Mai Rā travel declaration form before returning to New Zealand.
Could I Get Stuck in the Cooks?
Like the Australian Travel Bubble, the “flyer beware” caveat was original repeated by the Prime Minister. However, the NZ government has indicated that if a large scale community outbreak was to occur, they are more likely to assist with bringing New Zealanders home in order to reduce the impact on the Cook Islands health system. The message from the New Zealand government in the lead up to the announcement has been that New Zealand poses a greater Covid-19 risk to the Cook Islands than the Cook Islands poses to New Zealand. Extraction measures therefore reflect this reality.
Could I Still Have to Quarantine?
If there has been a community outbreak while you are in the Cook Islands you could be asked to monitor, get tested, self isolate, or even required to quarantine when you return to New Zealand.
How Fine Travel Can Help
The risk of a community outbreak in the Cook Islands is much lower than Australia, and the NZ government has indicated some level of repatriation support. Once we have booked your travel, we remain available to assist with any changes (enforced or voluntary).
When we book your flights, our direct reservations system access means we can make changes to your flights – saving you from the airline’s call centre. Given the risks involved, flexible and refundable airfares should be considered over the cheapest available.
A pausing or suspension of flights could result in an extended stay or prevent you from going on a planned holiday. Having a Plan B in place when you book your travel will avoid scrambling and save time, stress and potentially money. When the Delta outbreak closed the bubble we were available to help our clients make alternative plans, rebook and in rare cases cancel their holidays.
Can I get Travel Insurance?
Travel insurance is available if Covid-19 affects travel plans or if you are diagnosed with Covid-19 and the New Zealand government has not advised not to travel to that destination (as per the Safe Travel website). If you are planning to travel to the Cook Islands, please contact us about your travel insurance options.
What About Australians?
The Cook Islands government has not approved a triangular arrangement. Travellers from Australia will need to spend at least 14 days in New Zealand before travelling on to the Cook Islands.
Cook Island Holidays
Whether it’s a winter escape, a family holiday, a delayed honeymoon or a significant anniversary, the Cook Islands are ready and waiting and I look forward to helping you with your travel plans.
Image courtesy of David Kirkland photography.