Most stringent border controls set in place overnight

Tuesday March 24, 2020 Written by Published in Health
Dr Josephine Herman, centre, and senior doctors and nurses emphasise the message: go home, stay home. Dr Josephine Herman, centre, and senior doctors and nurses emphasise the message: go home, stay home.

The Government has all but closed the Cook Islands border, effective from midnight tonight, Tuesday.

From first thing Wednesday morning, anyone wishing to come into Cook Islands must first do 14 days quarantine in New Zealand, then be tested clear of Covid-19, then do another 14 days supervised quarantine in Rarotonga – a month in total.

“Ultimately this is the only decision that can be taken at this time to further strengthen the protection of our people from the dreadful effects of Covid-19. We cannot and must not take any further chances,” said Prime Minister Henry Puna

The alert status in Cook Islands moves from Code Blue to Code Yellow at 6pm tomorrow, Wednesday, signifying the need to take action to constrain the spread of Covid-19 in the community.

The Prime Minister announced plans for emergency funding which is expected to be passed by Parliament during their sitting tomorrow, including support for Cook Islands residents trapped in New Zealand under quarantine.

“As part of our immediate support to those impacted by Covid-19 restrictions, through the Administered Funds COVID-19 Response Fund, $4.5 million has been appropriated in the Supplementary Budget to be tabled in Parliament tomorrow.”

Details of specific possible financial assistance available to those Cook Islands residents now required to remain in New Zealand for the 14 days Te Marae Ora administered quarantine period will be availed via MFAI platforms within the next 48 hours.

Foreign Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann sought the understanding of Cook Islanders and Cook Islands residents affected by tonight’s announcement. “Please be patient and assured that officials are working as quickly and efficiently as possible to deal with all enquiries and to provide support to those affected as soon as best we can," she said.

"We encourage all those affected to make contact with us as soon as possible to register, which will thereafter allow us to provide further clarifications and support as available.”

Secretary of Health Dr Josephine Aumea Herman said the escalation from Code Blue to Code Yellow signalled health officials had reasonable grounds to believe there was a suspected case of Covid-19 in the community. “Code Yellow means Covid-19 is contained but the risk of community transmission is growing. At this stage, preventative measures implemented early can slow the transmission of infection and reduce the peak number of cases.

“The escalating threat of pandemic Covid-19 outside our borders, in particular New Zealand, now call for us to move to Code Yellow as part of our national emergency response, even though we do not have any confirmed Covid-19 cases in the Cook Islands."

Prime Minister Henry Puna, in a national address tonight, Tuesday, said it was time to take a bold step to help protect the country.

“As we prepare to move to Code Yellow we need to change our ways. While we can confirm there are no Covid-19 cases, we have to act like we have the virus now and be strict and disciplined now,” Puna said.

“We cannot and we must not take any chances.”

The country will shift from the Code Blue to Code Yellow alert as part of the national Covid-19 emergency response plan at 6pm today. 

Dr Herman said: “Code Yellow means Covid-19 is contained but the risk of community transmission is growing. At this stage, preventative measures implemented early can slow the transmission of infection and reduce the peak number of cases.”

The latest Covid-19 test results confirm that 11 swab tests taken in the Cook Islands and sent to New Zealand for testing, have come back negative for Covid-19.

More than 80 swabs have been sent to New Zealand for testing.

Yesterday Te Marae Ora Cook Islands Ministry of Health released information about three people of interest under active medical supervision. One returned a negative test today.

Health officials are awaiting results for the two remaining people of interest, which includes the patient referred to New Zealand on Monday, who has now been discharged from hospital care in New Zealand.

In recent days, health professionals in the Cook Islands have taken precautionary measures to collect swabs from people who presented at health facilities with a fever or cough.

Dr Herman said Te Marae Ora will continue to implement recommended Covid-19 protocols while it awaits test results to come back.

“We’re aiming to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the disease, but this will rely heavily on community action and participation,” she said.

2 comments

  • Comment Link Knocker Dean Saturday, 28 March 2020 12:22 posted by Knocker Dean

    As a Cook Island resident currently in NZ ( and happily here until the threat lessons for the Cooks ) I am happy that our govt is taking this matter very seriously, and appear to be following the lead of NZ. Well done. I follow with great interest because of my family and friends back home. There is one comment I would like to make, however and this relates to your public notifications. Most countries use a numbered alert level status ..... 1 being low level and 5 being high etc etc, including of course NZ where great numbers of Cookies live. Rarotonga appears to use a colour code notification system !... I have to wonder why ? It is extremely confusing for us Cookies overseas. I still do not understand the colour system ! Why don't you at least put a NZ reference number alongside the colour ... Eg. Yellow (4 in NZ) or whatever. Then we overseas could be more aware of what is happening back home, and also of coursevice versa.

  • Comment Link Kiki Maoate Tuesday, 24 March 2020 23:03 posted by Kiki Maoate

    Totally support the decision by PM and SOH Aumea Hermann to close the borders and have virus clearance testing of anyone coming home within the parameters set out
    There will be fall out and our people will be unhappy but they will reflect on how their sacrifice will avoid taking the virus home
    Our health system will not be able to cope with this virus if it gets out of control with or without the help of NZ
    Those stranded in NZ contact our Cook island High Commision Wellington there will be assistance to help families through this difficult time if needed

    Te turu atunei au ite ture tei akapapa ia atu i teia po tei paruru atu ite ititangata kia kore e oki atu kite ipukarea mei Nu Tireni mai
    Akakoromaki ete ititangata e taime manamanta teia no teia manumanu Corona Virus COVID19
    Kua rai teia maki i Nu Tireni nei e me tae atu kia tatou ka rai te ka maki e te ka rai rai te ka matemate
    Ringi atu i to tatou opati i Wellington na ratou e akapapa mai ite tauturu me ka inangaro ia
    Kia Manuia
    Na Te Atua Te aroa
    Dr Teariki Maoate

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