Cook Islands Prepared to Reopen
for International Visitors
Our little paradise remains one of about a dozen countries in the world that the novel coronavirus has not reached. In March, when COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, the Cook Islands government promptly closed the country’s borders. Tourism ground to a halt. Residents were ordered inside.
After several weeks of testing, decision-makers were confident no one in the Cook Islands had contracted the virus that was infecting most of the world.
Schools, churches, and inter-island travel reopened in April. Slowly, Cook Islands residents stranded overseas by the border closures were permitted to return home, but only after quarantining first for 30 days in New Zealand and then for another 14 days at a Rarotonga hotel.
In June, anticipating the eventual reopening of the country to tourists, the government and a taskforce representing the private sector launched CookSafe, a system that facilitates tracing in the event of a positive coronavirus test. The programme allows patrons of a public place to scan a QR code, using either a card or a wifi-enabled device, logging the date, time, and location of the visit. A secured database gives public health officials insight into who was in contact with whom, and when. While the borders remain closed, members of both the public and private sectors are continuing to perfect and standardise a strategy for safely welcoming guests back to the Cook Islands.
Cook Islands Tourism has developed a training programme called Kia Orana Plus, delivered via a series of videos. Modules cover the specifics of the novel coronavirus – how to recognise it, how it gets transmitted, how to prevent its spread – and the tenets of the Cook Islands Promise, a pledge developed collaboratively by Cook Islands Tourism, the Cook Islands Ministry of Health, and the Office of the Prime Minister. The Promise binds hosts and guests in a mutual commitment to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It demands good hygiene, including frequent hand washing and hand sanitising, and outlines specific actions guests and residents can take to keep the Cook Islands outside the purview of the pandemic.
“The Cook Islands Promise encourages both us, the hosts, and our visitors to safeguard each other by applying common sense physical distancing and stepped-up hygiene practices,” said Halatoa Fua, CEO of Cook Islands Tourism. “This is the new normal.”
In anticipation of welcoming tourists back to the Cook Islands, residents are taking the Cook Islands Promise, a pledge developed jointly by Cook Islands Tourism, the Cook Islands Ministry of Health, and the Office of the Prime Minister, which binds hosts and guests in a mutual commitment to keeping one another safe.
In mid-June, the government and a taskforce representing the private sector launched CookSafe, a system designed with support from the team that made codeREADr, a barcode scanning tool with integrated web service.
KIA ORANA PLUS
Rapid Training Programme
The Kia orana Plus rapid training programme was developed in collaboration with industry partners. The training covers how we need to ‘do and act’ during these times. Participants will also gain access to further government assistance and resources.