A Cook Islands trade negotiator has spent five days locked in his Beijing apartment to avoid exposure to the Wuhan coronavirus, before managing to fly out to New Zealand.
Mona Mato has been based in China working for Pacific Trade Invest China; he arrived safely back in Auckland on Monday night.
Nearly 25,000 people are now confirmed infected with the 2019conV virus in China, and 490 have died.
Tokyo Olympics organisers say they are concerned the Games, which open in just under six months, will be disrupted by the virus.
Chief Executive Officer Toshiro Muto said: “I am seriously worried that the spread of the infectious disease could throw cold water on the momentum toward the games. I hope that it will be stamped out as soon as possible.”
Cook Islander Mona Mato said he fully supported the decision by Immigration to apply travel restrictions to both visitors and returning residents, if they’ve been to China. He applauded their efforts to “better manage our border given the outbreak”.
“It’s encouraging to see our health services' quick response to the outbreak and the precautionary measures in place. So it’s a decision I understand and respect.
“Given our small population, that can pose serious ramifications if such measures are not in place.”
He remained in his apartment for five days after the outbreak worsened, before he managed to get out shortly after the virus was declared a global emergency.
Anyone who’s visited mainland China in the past 14 days – or even transited through – is barred from entering Cook Islands.
The Immigration Service emphasised yesterday that the restriction also applied to returning residents who are being told to quarantine themselves for 14 days, wherever they are, before coming back to Rarotonga.
Government is following the lead of New Zealand and others, with tough travel restrictions. New Zealand is now advising its citizens against travelling to any part of mainland China.
Anyone who has been to China since February 2 is banned from entering New Zealand – with the exception of New Zealand citizens, and those from Cook Islands and Niue.
Nearly 200 New Zealanders evacuated from Wuhan on a charter flight have been taken to a containment camp on the Coromandel Peninsula, to isolate them until it is certain whether they carry the fatal virus.
Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki, the Cook Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, formalised the new travel restrictions yesterday in response to Ministry of Health concerns related to the infectious Wuhan coronavirus,
The travel restriction remains in place until Te Marae Ora, the Cook Islands Ministry of Health, conducts a new risk assessment.