RAROTONGA, COOK ISLANDS (2 November 2021) — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will help the Cook Islands prepare for the return of tourists through a $2 million grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, financed by the Government of Japan.

Together with $500,000 of in-kind contribution from the Government of the Cook Islands, the grant will fund the Supporting Safe Recovery of Travel and Tourism Project, which will improve the Cook Islands’ airport and health services. Over 10,000 men and women in the Cook Islands will benefit from the project, particularly workers in the hospitality sector, 60.5% of whom are women.

The grant project will extend the Rarotonga Airport terminal building to improve coronavirus disease (COVID-19) screening and physical distancing, upgrade a health facility to provide hospital-like services, and install a medical waste treatment system.

“Tourism is critical to the Cook Islands’ economy, amounting to more than 60% of its pre-pandemic gross domestic product,” said ADB Senior Economics Officer and Project Lead Lily Homasi. “This funding will allow the Government of the Cook Islands to upgrade airport and health facilities, ensuring that reopening of borders will be safe for both travelers and Cook Islanders. Tourism revival will allow the country to recover sustainably from the downturn caused by COVID-19.”

The existing structure of the Rarotonga Airport terminal requires additional upgrades to incorporate updated international COVID-19 safety measures. The project will fund an extension to the airport terminal to allow sufficient space between incoming passengers and waiting areas for vulnerable groups.

The Cook Islands’ health system has limited capacity to isolate and treat COVID-19 patients. Through the project, a health care facility in Rarotonga will be refurbished to function 24/7 and provide services such as triage, specialized primary health care, emergency services, maternal and reproductive health, and counselling—including for gender-based violence and mental health cases.

The only medical waste incinerator in the country will struggle to safely dispose of the increased volume of protection, testing, and treatment waste the COVID-safe return of visitors will generate. The project will install a waste treatment system to complement the incinerator and manage the additional waste in an environmentally friendly manner.

The project complements efforts by the governments of the Cook Islands and New Zealand in ensuring over 96% of the adult population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, making it one of the most highly vaccinated countries in the world. It also complements New Zealand’s support to improve screening, testing, contact tracing, and isolation processes in the Cook Islands.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.

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