Pressure mounts on NZ and Aust to include Pacific in ‘bubble’

Pressure is mounting for New Zealand to make a Pacific ‘travel bubble’ a priority along with, or even ahead of, opening its borders with Australia.

The Cook Islands News reports the International Pilots Association has formally requested that a New Zealand-Australia travel zone be extended to Pacific nations including Fiji, Vanuatu and the Cook Islands.

In a letter to Australia Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, association president Mark Sedgwick pointed to Fiji having had only 18 recorded Covid-19 cases and no deaths.

He said Vanuatu and the Cook Islands had no confirmed cases.

Mr Sedgwick went on to say the success of Pacific neighbours in limiting the spread of Covid-19 represented an opportunity to cautiously expand the travel zone.

Queen’s Birthday honour recipient and Cook Island surgeon George Ngaei, added his voice to those of Pacific health leader Colin Tukuitonga, and Otago University epidemiologist Michael Baker, all arguing for the flights to resume across the Pacific in the near future.

The University of Canterbury’s Michael Hall, from the Department of Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship, said a trans-Pacific bubble would be mutually beneficial in terms of travel, tourism and trade.

“Leaving the Pacific countries out of the travel bubble would potentially be extremely damaging to New Zealand’s relationships to those countries… Allowing the travel bubble to expand to them would be much better than having to increase aid.”

The Cook Islands Deputy Prime Minister, Mark Brown, also backed the local Private Sector Taskforce calls for the border to reopen next month.

Meanwhile Rarotongan resort owner Tata Crocombe said the Cook Islands needed tourists, not aid, financial bailouts or loans.

“There is a concern in the Cook Islands about a case arising and not being able to get them off the island,” he said.

“The simple solution to that is to require all visitors to have full insurance for medical evacuation should they contract or show symptoms of coronavirus whilst in the Cook Islands.”


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