Rarotonga will stay open to quarantine free travel in spite of New Zealand's detection of omicron in the community.
On Monday the Cook Islands government decided to keep the existing International Quarantine Free Travel border settings with New Zealand, albeit with some new Covid-19 measures in place.
"We were always aware that it was just a matter of time before omicron came out into the New Zealand community," Liana Scott, president of the Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council told Cook Islands News.
"Given the pre-travel requirements to get into Rarotonga as well as high vaccination rates on island, it is no surprise that the border remains open."
Additional health measures are in place as of this week. These include caps on public gatherings at 100 people and mandatory RAT testing for all passengers to Aitutaki and the Pa Enua.
Previously exempt, transferring passengers to Aitutaki will also be required to take a RAT test.
Rarotonga Airport recently installed a testing centre. From today each RAT test will cost $10.
The cabinet led by PM Mark Brown was also informed that two recently arrived tourists were placed in managed isolation. One of the tourists had been identified by New Zealand's Ministry of Health as having visited a location of interest. Both members of the travel party tested negative on Saturday but would remain in MIQ until next weekend, awaiting further tests.
"We need to bounce back – we need to learn to live with Covid-19 and its variants," said Liana.
Kave Tamaariki of Ariki Adventures welcomed the quarantine-free restart but says that weather and Covid-19 restrictions mean testing times for tourism operators.
"Massive swells, high winds and rain are all contributing to a less than perfect start to the bubble opening," he said.
"Many businesses like ours are postponing or cancelling activities due to the conditions."
The concern over omicron and costly PCR tests have also dampened inbound tourist numbers.
Pre-departure tests from free Community testing stations in New Zealand are not accepted by the Cook Islands. PCR tests from the accredited list of suppliers cost between $115 and $250.
Wild weather cancels flights
While the borders might still be open, a tropical storm had other plans cancelling Air New Zealand Services from Auckland.
Flight NZ946 was returned to Auckland after being unable to land safely in Rarotonga on Saturday. This had the knock-on effect of cancelling flight NZ945 to Auckland.
"Weather is horrible in Rarotonga and we couldn't land ... well, at the very least we've got another three hours to watch another movie," one passenger wrote to Facebook via the in-flight Wi-Fi.
Winds of 43 knots were recorded at the Cook Islands Met Office in Nikao. Those in the Cook Islands saw low-level flooding and some damage in coastal areas.
High tides in Avatiu and Avarua harbour left tons of debris on Rarotonga's northern beaches.