Te Marae Ora, the Cook Islands Ministry of Health, reassured the public there was low risk to public health.
“We have assessed where the cruise ship Maasdam has come from and also where the passengers and crew have travelled to in the last 14 days,” said Secretary of Health Dr Josephine Herman.
It had not stopped at any high-risk country, and the onboard doctors said there was nobody with Covid-19 symptoms.
“We know cruise ships are of particular concern to people, and cruise ships have been particularly visible in the global response to Covid-19. The reality is that we actually have more time to assess Covid-19 risk on a ship than with flights.”
Recently, cruise ships had introduced questionnaires specifically designed to screen passengers for Covid-19.
“Our responsibility to public health and our people must come first. That said, we are also talking to tourism and the private sector about the impact on businesses,” Dr Herman said.
“We know that a lot of people’s livelihoods here depend on visitors to the Cook Islands.”
The Cook Islands Government acknowledges that at some point a case of Covid-19 in the Cook Islands is likely. This could come from a Cook Islander returning from a trip overseas, or a visitor.
Border control checks do not guarantee an absolute protection to the Cook Islands, because the incubation period is up to 14 days. This means people may not show any symptoms when they arrive in country.
“We have travel advisories in place, but our borders will most likely need to stay open to some extent. For example, we rely on New Zealand to support us with medical evacuations. We also need supplies to come in and allow our people to travel out.”
Maasdam will be docking on Thursday with approximately 1000 people on board.
“We have advised the ship’s doctors to ensure all passengers are practising the advice we have provided for our people, that is to regularly wash your hands, avoid touching your face, cover your coughs and sneezes, clean surfaces regularly and social distancing: avoid kisses, hugs and hand shaking and replace these with smiles, a wave or a nod.”
Cruise ships have stopped travelling to the Pa Enua until at least April, at community leaders’ request. This acknowledges the outer islands’ fragile health systems.