Cook Islands is now medically equipped and ready to take care of Covid-19 case if it arrives here, says the government.
Speaking at the opening of Parliament yesterday, Health Minister Rose Toki-Brown said the ministry was prepared with a medical quarantine facility at the hospital, if or when anyone is diagnosed with the coronavirus.
Her assurance comes as New Zealand yesterday confirmed two new Covid cases – the first in the past 24 days.
It is a setback to hopes of a Pacific travel bubble of Covid-free nations, that might have allowed Kiwi tourists to spend their July school holidays our resorts and at our markets.
The two new cases are women aged in their 30s and 40s, who arrived on June 7 from Britain, via Brisbane, Australia.
One had mild symptoms, the other was symptom free. Both had gone into self-isolation in the Wellington region.
Dr Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s Director-General of Health, said they had applied for an exemption on Thursday, June 11, to travel to Wellington in a private vehicle to see a dying parent the following day. The parent died that night.
“They were in a managed isolation hotel in Auckland and were permitted on compassionate grounds to leave managed isolation to travel to Wellington via private vehicle.”
Dr Bloomfield said there was only one additional family member who could be at risk, and that person was being tested and isolated.
Other potential contacts included people on the same flight from Brisbane, and people who were in or had been in the same managed isolation facility in Auckland, including staff.
From now on, people must return a negative result before being allowed an exemption, he said. “We should not be complacent, we should remain vigilant. There is a pandemic raging outside our shores.”
Rose Toki-Brown said the government could not move forward to reopen the Cook Islands-New Zealand, “until we have proper discussions about this”.
Their initial aim was to opening the doors to the Kiwis and “maybe later Australia”.
Fletcher Melvin, chair of the Private Sector Taskforce, said the two new Covid-19 cases in New Zealand showed the need to have strong health measures in place at the border.
New Zealand needed to be extra cautious when opening borders to countries that have Covid-19 cases.
“What we are saying is, we are a country not affected … we don’t have any Covid-19 cases. Accepting people from the Cook Islands to New Zealand and vice versa should be allowed.”
Melvin also said they were working with the Cook Islands Government to put together a comprehensive proposal for border reopening, to present to the New Zealand Government.
The proposal would demonstrate the health plans and procedures the Cook Islands had in place to combat Covid-19.
Cook Islands is not the only Pacific country that has called upon New Zealand to urgently review its stance: that travel between New Zealand and its Pacific neighbours will not be considered until after the trans-Tasman bubble is in place.
The New Zealand-Fiji Business Council is calling for a Pacific travel bubble including Cook Islands.
It was difficult to understand the rationale of the New Zealand government in favouring Australia first, the Council said, given Fiji and other Pacific Island nations such as Samoa, Cook Islands, Tonga and Niue were ahead of Australia in the fight against Covid-19.
The Council has more than 120 member companies including some New Zealand’s leading businesses. Australia continued to report new cases on an almost daily basis, they said, with the added complexity of the different states having varying quarantine and social distancing requirements.
Meanwhile Air New Zealand has confirmed it will resume Auckland-Shanghai flights next week, despite a new outbreak in China.
- additional reporting RNZ