Norman George: Time to plan and prepare for phase two

Tuesday April 14, 2020 Published in Editorials

OPINION: In the absence of one positive case of Covid-19 being identified here, there is no evidence the virus has landed in the Cook Islands, writes Norman George.


Those in the Health Ministry and the government of the day must be granted spell binding honours for putting together a “pre-coronavirus exercise” of a complete shutdown of our international border and internal border to the outer islands.

The social conditioning and distancing, limited public gatherings, strict hygiene regimes at all shops and public places are simply a compelling success!

I shall refer to this as phase one of the coronavirus exercise. 

Let me suggest, now is the time to plan and prepare for phase two.  We cannot allow the country to remain in a permanent lockdown.

I describe the experience we are now having as being in a state of furious thunderstorm, when in fact there is no thunderstorm.

While the country faces a clear and present danger of coronavirus invasion, the most important thing to accept is that the international border remains closed indefinitely. No overseas visitors, no tourist ships. 

If that is maintained with strict diligence, we have nothing to fear.

Phase two must address the state of the economy; which appears to be gasping for air and barely alive. We cannot remain in a blind infinity. 

With medical and scientific support and approval, we should open up our internal borders to the outer islands to resume normal travel and commercial activities.

Business activities on the main island of Rarotonga should re-open with social distancing stopped.  This can be considered to happen sometime in May, at the end of April!

All activities not involving anyone like officials and personnel from overseas should re-open. 

We should enjoy limited internal trading and infrastructure work like road construction and sealing, water works and other infrastructure activities.

The schools should be reopened after that.  While doing this, all government grants and concessions must remain in place, to help with our economic recovery.  There must be incentives to help business owners and investors.

Those responsible are asked to put together phase two plans which need to be structured, detailed and specific. Yes, we need a new phase two plan! 

The great achievements of phase one must be advanced and enhanced. 

We need a blood rush to get into a fresh economic overdrive. It may not be up to the standards of normal trading, what is important is that it is a form of resuscitator to get the economic circulation moving. 

Action has good solid consequences; inaction has catastrophic consequences.

The government of the day cannot abdicate from its economic responsibilities.  The Chamber of Commerce and the business community needs government intervention, to change course and bring a halt to the pandemic exercise we are undergoing.  Remember, it is an “exercise” and nothing else.

I need to send out a cautionary notice to the Government about potential border violations by fishing boats in the northern group islands. 

We are aware of the black market trading activities between Chinese, Koreans and Taiwanese fishing boats with a number of northern group islands. 

They exchange fish for rice, flour, vegetables and food. This has been going on for the last 60 years. Strict instructions must be sent out for this to stop. The fishermen from the fishing boats could be Covid-19 virus carriers.

Give the rest of the country confidence that this will not be allowed and that strict penalties will be applied.

To round things up, I picked up some small flaws in the handling of health services. 

There is a lot of confusion between the outstations in the village using 0800 numbers and the outpatient service in Tupapa. Speaking to doctors on call must be difficult for locals with limited English, especially when dealing with non-local doctors (God bless them). No on sight diagnosis, all details by description, know the difference between a virus infection and a bacterial infection. 

I found that I had to explain this to a doctor on the phone. He said to me, when I asked for antibiotics to cure my flu, that a virus cannot cause a flu infection.  In order to get my medicine, I declared to him my flu was caused by bacterial infection. 

I got my tablets eventually.  Instead of allowing me to pick it up from Tupapa Outpatients, it was transferred to the Vaimaanga Outstation Covid-19 outpost and took three days to reach me at home. I was not going to wait three days, so I went to get a prescription from my private doctor and got it within hours. 

Things might look good on paper, but it does not always tick like clockwork. I only mentioned this to help improve the system.

Overall, the Covid-19 exercise phase one is a monumental success. 

The important thing is, if parts of phase one are changed, we can always fall back on a complete shutdown, having done the exercise already!  I’ll comment on phase three and phase four further down the track.


1 comment

  • Comment Link Nio Jim Mareiti Tuesday, 14 April 2020 11:37 posted by Nio Jim Mareiti

    Te ariki atu nei i te au manako.E mea tau kia akara ia eaa tetai au mea puapinga kia akatuera maria ia i te au ra.Kia akara matatio maria katoa ia.Kia papa katoa i te kite katoa atu i tetai au taii,kia papa ua rai no tetai au tauianga kia kore e tupu mai tetai au akataii anga ka ngata kia rapakau ia

Leave a comment