Failure to adhere to the advice of Te Marae Ora Cook Islands Ministry of Health and posting incorrect information on social media about Covid-19 will now be punishable by law.
The Covid-19 Act 2020 was passed under urgency at this year’s first sitting of Parliament and presented by Minister of Health Rose Toki Brown.
The Act provides the legal framework to implement the nation’s response to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and the threat it poses for Cook Islands.
Rose Brown said although much of the effort and protection is centred in Rarotonga, these decisions were being made for everyone including those in both the Northern and Southern Pa Enua.
“Through this bill, the deep intention is granting the power and authority for Government agencies to eliminate and reduce the threat of this virus,” she said.
“We must be mindful of those working hard and understand the risks they are taking.”
While there were still no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country, Brown said the health ministry now has authorisation to order supervised quarantine or isolation for periods of 14 days.
“It has become obvious that rejection of the need to self-quarantine has added to the weight of the work of Te Marae Ora being led by Dr Josephine Aumea Herman and those working hard in the Puna groups,” Brown said.
“Let it not be that this legislation has to push us to follow the rules.”
Anyone found to be posting incorrect information about Covid-19 on social media will also face prosecution.
Individuals who fail to comply with the Act face up to 12 months in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
Businesses who flout the rules under the Act, will be subject to fines of up to $200,000 if convicted.
Democratic Party leader Tina Browne said ordinarily, granting sweeping and widespread power and authority to anyone would require some careful consideration.
“However at this extraordinary and unprecedented time, we recognise the importance and urgency of passing this Act for the safety of our country,” she said. “We can’t afford to be complacent.”
Article Four of the Act will allow for the legislation to automatically cease in 12 months, should there no longer be a need for it, or extended by the Government.