RAROTONGA (COOK ISLANDS NEWS)— Prime Minister Mark Brown has clarified comments he made last Wednesday regarding quarantine for Cook Islands residents arriving into the country from New Zealand.

Cook Islands news reported government had reinstated supervised quarantine following a Covid-19 case in Samoa.

However, following a meeting with Cabinet, PM Brown said they have agreed passengers on Friday’s flight from Auckland will not be required to undergo 14-day supervised quarantine.

In clarifying the statements he made in an interview with Cook Islands News, the Prime Minister said he was interviewed primarily on a topic not related to Covid-19 or supervised quarantine and was asked questions about political meetings that were being held around Rarotonga regarding the reintroduction of mandatory supervised quarantine.

At the time, PM Brown had only just been alerted to the first Covid-19 case in Samoa.

“As we all subsequently discovered, the man (a sailor) had been returning from Europe via New Zealand – where he was in transit. This was not a New Zealand case of community transmission,” he said.

In an attempt to demonstrate how quickly the country can reinstate supervised quarantine, the Prime Minister made reference to the Samoan case.

He said had that turned out to be a case of community transmission and had New Zealand shifted levels, so too would the Cook Islands.

Brown was quoted in the article saying: “That’s how quickly we can respond. If New Zealand’s situation changes, we change ours straight away.”

However New Zealand hasn’t changed their alert levels “so there will be no change to our border settings. At this stage only Cook Islanders, PRs and work permit holders can enter with a negative test”.

But Opposition Democratic Party leader Tina Browne said she and her team are bitterly disappointed with the Prime Minister “flip flopping” on such a critical issue to the people of the Cook Islands.

“Our people will be so disappointed and feel let down by the prime minister that he changed his mind,” Browne said.

“There was such huge relief throughout our community and from Cook Islanders abroad when the newspaper announced that quarantine was being reinstated.

“Now there will be many, many people who will be stunned to learn that he’s changed his mind based on different advice given to him. As the leader of this country, he cannot keep changing his mind, it creates so much uncertainty and worry.”

Browne said going back to a quarantine free status will create real worry in the community.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister met with the Leader of the Opposition and some of her colleagues.

During their discussions, he explained the decision making process and the process around amending travel advisories.

Both parties also spoke about the quarantine free travel arrangement currently being negotiated with New Zealand and how it will allow, only when safe, reciprocal travel. 

In particular, they talked about the impact for Cook Islanders intending to travel to New Zealand without having to undertake and fund two weeks of managed isolation in an isolation facility on arrival.

Both parties agreed to work together for the good of the country.

PM Mark Brown said: “What we all firmly agreed is that we need to bolster our risk assessment models based on more science and epidemiology.”

“Government’s decision continues to be based on the Border Control and Disease Transmission matrix. This matrix is what has been guiding the government’s decision making process for many months already, however I will be asking my officials to review this matrix as we gain a better understanding of how Covid works and how it is spread.

“Our precautions are in step with what New Zealand does and goes up or down in relation to their alert system. The limited travel we have allowed across our border has been driven by the risks we perceive from people coming in from there. That’s why we have gone through supervised quarantine procedures from time to time. At the moment the perceived level of risk is very low. But, that may well change, in the coming days, weeks, months,” he said….PACNEWS

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