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.