Health of at least four members of the public were at risk after a breach in quarantine at the Edgewater Resort and Spa on Monday.
The breach involved the transfer of a mobile phone from the quarantine facility to a person on the outside.
Last night Ministry of Health confirmed the four, who were put into supervised quarantine at the Edgewater on Monday afternoon, have been released. This after one of the members of “cohort two” at the centre of the breach tested negative of Covid-19.
The health ministry said the person in quarantine was able to “coerce a colleague” into taking a cell phone that needed attention to Vodafone.
The security which comprise police officers and hotel staff were unable to notice the delivery of the mobile phone.
According to video footage at Vodafone, three employees came into contact with the phone.
Health secretary Dr Josephine Aumea Herman said: “It really is disappointing that a few are spoiling it for the rest, and at the same time testing the patience of the many people working hard to keep the returnees safe.
“If this virus enters, the contact tracing response required could be a lot more extensive than the one that took place, especially if close contacts have been in contact with a large number of people.”
Phillip Henderson, chief executive of Vodafone Cook Islands, said health ministry requested three of their staff to go into quarantine on Monday afternoon.
Last night he confirmed they were released after a medical test.
Police spokesperson Trevor Pitt said the incident sparked a police investigation and rapid public health measures to determine the level of risk to people.
“While the overall risk is not considered high, the current approach of zero tolerance to prevent Covid-19 means that every precaution must be taken to ensure complete safety,” Pitt said.
He said all the individuals concerned are being attended to in the safest possible manner.
Dr Josephine Aumea Herman said they were possibly fortunate this time in that there appears to be a low risk of the virus being present in the cohort.
“But that’s not always going to be the case. We need to take learnings from this and also keep remembering to wash hands frequently, maintain physical distancing and sneeze/cough into your elbow or top.
“If we are serious about preventing Covid-19 from reaching our shores every precaution must be taken to ensure complete safety, and that includes abiding by protocols and procedures”
Earlier this week, Cook Islands Security director Chris Denny questioned why police were handling security at the Edgewater quarantine centre, instead of a local company.
He is now disappointed that a breach could jeopardise the safety of the community.
“A private security firm would have to be extremely vigilant to avoid such a scenario and would take full responsibility.”
Retired detective Rod Henderson shares Denny’s sentiments, he said it was wrong that Cook Islands Security wasn’t given the security contract in the first place.
It puts more pressure on an already stretched police department, he said.
However, Police Commissioner Maara Tetava said he’s “more than satisfied with the security arrangements and supervision of the quarantined cohorts, accommodated at the Edgewater Resort and Spa”.
Commissioner Tetava is receiving daily briefs onsite at the hotel where assigned police officers are working closely with the hotel security team, management and Puaikura Puna volunteers.
“I’m encouraged by the performance of all those involved,” he said.
Two cohorts of 235 returnees are undergoing their required supervised quarantine and medical clearance at the Arorangi hotel.
Police officers are working with the hotel security team, management and Puaikura Puna volunteers.
>Additional reporting Losirene Lacanivalu.