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Jacinda Ardern announces long-awaited start date for travel bubble with Cook Islands

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has this afternoon announced the long-awaited travel bubble between New Zealand and the Cook Islands will begin 14 days from now on Monday, May 17.

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The travel bubble is set to begin on May 17. Source: 1 NEWS

Ardern made the announcement to media at her post-Cabinet address.

She stated the travel bubble will begin on May 17 only "on the basis of a clear set of criteria is met".

"Two way quarantine-free travel is a significant step in both countries’ Covid-19 recovery, and a direct result of both New Zealand and the Cook Islands’ successful response to the pandemic," Ardern said.

"It will mean families can reconnect, commercial arrangements can resume and Kiwis can take a much-welcomed winter break and support the Cook Islands’ tourism sector and recovery.

“That we can take this step in our recovery so soon after opening the trans-Tasman bubble highlights the benefits of our Covid-19 management, and the opportunities it is now providing New Zealand and our neighbours."

A one-way bubble was open for people from the Cook Islands to and from New Zealand, but New Zealanders could not travel there under the same conditions.

There will be no requirement for pre-departure tests, but there will be random health checks at airports.

New Zealand's Covid-19 vaccine rollout to the Cook Islands is set to start later this month.

It comes after advertising by Air New Zealand suggested the airline was ramping up its flights to Rarotonga this month.

Ardern earlier told Breakfast discussing the bubble was “one of the topics” on Cabinet’s meeting agenda this afternoon.

“You know it’s next on our list. They, of course, are Covid-free. It’s about making sure when we do open up, that we can do so safely just in case.”

Last month, Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown said his country was “open for business” to New Zealanders from the beginning of May, regardless of whether a travel bubble is in place.

Without the bubble, he said the islands’ economy was in freefall.

"We're losing a million dollars a day in revenue, lost revenue from our tourism industry."

Brown visited New Zealand last month to meet with officials about the travel bubble.

Meanwhile, on Friday, a traveller from the Cook Islands was found to have breached the trans-Tasman travel bubble after they flew from Auckland to Perth without spending the required two weeks in New Zealand.