Sydney, Australia, Dec 12 (efe-epa).- New Zealand on Saturday agreed to create a reciprocal travel bubble with the Cook Islands, in the South Pacific, that will allow people to travel between the two countries without the mandatory quarantine.
New Zealand had put quarantine measures in place since it closed its borders in March to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
The prime ministers of New Zealand and the Cook Islands, Jacinda Ardern and Mark Brown respectively, said in a joint statement that officials from both countries are working to safely resume two-way quarantine-free travel early next year.
“The Arrangement recognizes the special ties between New Zealand and the Cook Islands. It will allow people to travel more easily between our two countries, while acknowledging that the priority remains to protect our populations from COVID-19,” Ardern said.
“Quarantine-free access for travelers from the Cook Islands to New Zealand will provide for the movement of people for delivering and accessing essential services, while allowing officials to finalize preparations for a safe return to two-way quarantine-free travel” she added.
New Zealand’s government has been praised for its management of the Covid-19 epidemic.
A total of 1,736 infections have been recorded in the country since the start of the pandemic, including 25 deaths.
Meanwhile, the Cook Islands, whose borders are also closed, has not detected a single Covid-19 case until now.
“This Arrangement is the next step towards resuming many aspects of life in the Cook Islands that have been disrupted by COVID-19, including access to health and education, and reuniting family and friends,” Brown said in the statement.
New Zealand, which is looking at expanding this travel bubble to other countries including Fiji, had originally planned to set up an air-travel corridor with Australia but it was delayed after Covid-19 outbreaks in several Australian states in recent months.
Located in the South Pacific, the Cook Islands archipelago comprising of 15 islands has a free-association arrangement with New Zealand, which means its nearly 10,000 inhabitants are automatically granted New Zealand citizenship. EFE-EPA