Dr Josephine Herman said there were no known cases of the coronavirus in Cook Islands, and none of the three people in quarantine was showing any symptoms of the disease.
One is in there because she flew back from Auckland to Rarotonga, after being in close contact with a New Zealand woman who had contracted the virus in Italy.
The other two are travellers who didn’t disclose that they had been to Italy and Singapore, before boarding two different Virgin Australia flights from Auckland to Raro.
“It’s really important that we show respect to those people who are in quarantine,” Dr Herman said. “Tomorrow, it could be me or it could be you who needs to go into quarantine.
“We want people to feel supported and also to know that it’s okay to put up your hand if you do have symptoms. This is important because if there is a case, our health workers can provide the appropriate care and undertake contact tracing.”
Dr Herman encouraged people to share accurate information about COVID-19.
“We know that there has been some misinformation on Facebook but it’s really important that we stick to the facts about Covid-19,” she said.
She recommended Te Marae Ora Cook Islands Ministry of Health website, Facebook page or Twitter account for reliable information.
There was currently no case of Covid-19 in the Cook Islands, she said. However, Cook Islands Government recognises it was highly likely that it would come to the Cook Islands.
“We are hearing concerns in our community about the disease. That’s natural. It’s normal to feel worried. We are working with different community groups to get information out to all of our communities in Rarotonga and the Pa Enua. But we need everyone’s help to share accurate information.”
How infectious is it?
Dr Josephine Herman compared Covid-19 with measles: if one person has measles, they can spread it to approximately 12 to 18 people. “The reason we are able to prevent measles is because we have a very high rate of vaccination in the Cook Islands.”
Scientists studying Covid-19 think one person is likely to infect two to five other people.
And one person with influenza was likely to infect just one or two people.
She called for people to regularly wash their hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser, and avoid touching their faces.
“We’re encouraging people to smile instead of kissing when greeting people. We know it’s a big shift for our Cook Islands culture, but it’s small steps like this that will help our community keep safe.”