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13 May 2021

Kia Orana,

As Chair of the Border Easement Taskforce (BET), I am tasked with official’s level overall co-ordination of the All of Government approach to Quarantine Free Travel (QFT). Since its establishment in July 2020, the BET, made up of senior officials from key government agencies including Te Marae Ora – Ministry of Health, have focused efforts on fortifying our borders against COVID-19 and ensuring health, border and whole of society preparedness for resumption of two way QFT with New Zealand (NZ). BET work has required co-ordination of domestic effort and sustained negotiations and engagement with NZ counterparts. The BET report to and take direction from the QFT Ministerial Troika (Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Health and Minister of Tourism) and ultimately Cabinet.

With the recent confirmation by both Prime Ministers of commencement of two way QFT on 17 May 2021 (NZT), the work of the BET has shifted focus to QFT implementation and continued real-time monitoring of border and health settings in both the Cook Islands (CKI) and NZ to ensure continued timely, evidence-based decisions and responses by whole of society.

This memo serves as an update of the work being advanced by the BET and seeks your ongoing support with key tasks over the coming days. We encourage you to share this email with your family and friends to help keep everyone updated.


Cook Islands new COVID-19 Alert Level System

On Tuesday 27 April, our Prime Minister launched the CKI new COVID-19 Alert Level System. Considerable work went into aligning the coloured system we are familiar with, and the NZ numerical Alert Level system. Please ensure you are familiar with measures at each alert level and share with your families and communities. Material is in English and Maori. The BET will work with heads of agencies and Pa Enua Island Governments to ensure agency/island specific material covering service delivery at each alert level is produced in the coming days.

Quarantine Free Travel from May 17 (NZT)

On Sunday 02 May (CKT), our Prime Minister joined the NZ Prime Minister announcing the commencement of two-way Quarantine-Free Travel between the CKI and NZ from May 17 (NZT). To be eligible to travel under the QFT Arrangement, travellers must have been in the CKI and/or NZ for 14 days immediately prior to travel and meet applicable health and immigration requirements. Travellers must continue to check both the and websites for updates as border and health settings can change quickly.

QFT Implementation Unit Activated

At the end of last month, Cabinet approved the activation of the QFT Implementation Unit (IU). The IU is the operational arm of the BET and work closely with the BET to ensure the successful delivery of the QFT Implementation Plan and the All of Government QFT Communications Plan. The IU is staffed by Karopaerangi Ngatoko (MFAI) as National QFT Coordinator; Karla Eggelton (CI Tourism) as QFT Communications Coordinator role; and Metua Bates (TMO) QFT Public Health Coordinator. I would appreciate officials working with the IU unit should they reach out for assistance. The QFT-A is integral to our ongoing protection against COVID-19 and critical economic recovery, let’s all continue working together.

Vaccination roll-out to commence May 18 (CKT)

As announced by our Prime Minister yesterday, our vaccination roll-out will commence on Tuesday 18th May – starting in Rarotonga with our vaccinators, health and border workforce. We will receive sufficient Pfizer vaccine to provide full coverage for our eligible population – all residents over the age of 16 years are eligible. While vaccination is not mandatory, I would echo the call from our Prime Minister and urge all residents to be vaccinated. It is free. It is voluntary. It is effective. It will save lives. It could save your life and lives of your loved ones. TMO will continue to issue updates on the vaccine roll-out in the coming days.

COVID-19 Vaccination Survey

You’re invited to participate in a quick 60-second survey to help determine the sentiment around the COVID-19 vaccination rollout for the Cook Islands. The COVID-19 vaccine is free, effective and voluntary. Have your say in the survey below.

Since the COVID-19 onset, an enormous amount of work over many months has gone into bolstering our border, health and whole of society COVID-19 response capabilities. Government have sustained extensive engagement across our nation with our communities and industry. I want to thank all officials who’ve contributed in various ways over many months. Thank you for your toil and service to our people. We have much to be proud of and grateful for but we cannot rest yet. The first flight under the QFT-A arrives Rarotonga next week, Tuesday 18th May. That same flight brings our first batch of Pfizer vaccines. Let us all continue to work together as we take this important step towards our recovery, keeping at the forefront the continued health of our people. These continue to be unpredictable and challenging times. We must continue to be agile and ready to pivot if need. Preparation, planning and teamwork is key. Ka akamaroiroi tatou.

Meitaki Ma’ata,

Tepaeru Herrmann Chair of the Border Easement Taskforce (BET)

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