It’s been a long road thus far – and there’s much further to go yet. But yesterday, members of the Cook Islands Golden Oldies netball team boarded a bus to a managed isolation facility in Auckland.
They are one step closer to boarding a plane that will take them home to Cook Islands, but even then, they face another two weeks in another hotel, and more tests – but at least they’ll be in Rarotonga.
The group were briefed yesterday before departing for the secured Holiday Inn in Mangere, near Auckland International Airport. They will be close enough to see and hear the once-a-week flights departing for Rarotonga.
New Zealand has signed off on the quarantine and is funding it through its Covid-19 aid to the Cook Islands.
Those at the Holiday Inn say they are being treated well and are looking forward to being able to hug families back home in a month’s time.
Community worker Thomas Wynne, who has been delivering food and support to the group for the past month, said he’d had positive reports from the hotel.
“They are comfortable and enjoying the wifi,” he said.
“Not everyone has been picked up yet from the first cohort so some must be coming in tomorrow. Questions around who is on the second list and the third, and some concern at those in rooms alone but other than that, all good.”
Towards the end of the two-week quarantine, the returning residents will undergo a Covid-19 test and medical clearance before being allowed to fly to Rarotonga.
On arrival in Rarotonga, the travellers will be required to undergo a further two weeks of supervised quarantine in a disused resort, and another Covid-19 test, before being allowed back into their homes and the community at large.
Many, like the 38 Golden Oldies delegates were hoping to fly home earlier this month after their first two weeks isolation at the Atiu Hall – but there was a breakdown in communications between the Cook Islands and New Zealand goverments.
The repatriation had to be cancelled, because Cook Islands plans breached New Zealand emergency lockdown laws.
Wynne said: “Seeing our mamas and papas board the bus today for their 14-day quarantine here in New Zealand was an emotional day, as we knew the next time we would see each other would be in Rarotonga later this year.
“Nonetheless they have approached this with the same resolve they had at Atiu Hall and all, with tears in their eyes just longing to be home with their loved ones and families.”