No NZ-Cook Islands travel bubble frustrates top surgeon who says small nation is 'suffering' without tourism

The Government’s hesitation to create a travel bubble with the Cook Islands has frustrated a top surgeon who has worked there for the past 15 years and says the nation is suffering without New Zealand's tourism.

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Dr John Dunn has flown there for the last 15 years for work and says without tourism, the nation is suffering. Source: Breakfast

Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said any travel bubbles needed to be worked through with "absolute caution", even with a country that has been declared Covid-19 free, such as the Cook Islands.

She said borders, including airports, were a “very high risk environment” for the spread of Covid-19.

But, Auckland Airport announced yesterday it would be separating into two different zones to accommodate travel bubbles.

Dr John Dunn a laparoscopic surgeon in New Zealand who travelled to the Cook Islands for work for many years says the airports are a “non-issue” and that without tourism the islands will struggle.

Around 70 per cent of the nation's tourists arrive there each year from New Zealand.

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It comes as Auckland Airport announced it is preparing to create two safe travel zones. Source: 1 NEWS

“It’s more than tourism, their whole economy is failing and when the economy fails the health system will fail, the education system will fail so they’re getting a bit desperate.

"I think it’s a bit of a smoke screen. I don’t think it's that difficult to separate people at the airport and fortunately they’ve (the airports) come out yesterday and said that.”

Dr Dunn says travellers could also leave from New Zealand's domestic airports, and regard the Cook Islands as a domestic destination.

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The airport is looking to have two separate terminals – one for those arriving from bubble destinations and another for all others. Source: 1 NEWS

"Either that, or leave from the domestic airport if we could regard the Cook Islands as a domestic destination then it’d make it a whole lot easier.

“And it is domestic, they’re all New Zealanders they’re Kiwis like us and they’re suffering. It’s just a logistical problem.”

Though he believes the Government has done a “wonderful” job in containing the virus here, he says it has a responsibility to the Cook Islands.

“It’s a pretty easy way to resuscitate their economy, you could save that nation,” says Dr Dunn.

“They have a wage subsidy there which ends in September. After that, the gloves are off.”