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Pacific teams up to battle Covid-19

Friday March 06, 2020 Written by Published in Health

Cook Islands is sending nose and mouth swab tests to New Zealand for advanced testing.


The Ministry of Health has the viral swabs in the system, and does tests as required, Health Secretary Dr Josephine Aumea Herman says.

“We have a strict case definition of who and when we test and that includes a travel history to the areas of concern that we’ve outlined, and based on those test results we’ll then inform our public,” she said.

The Cook Islands does not have advanced laboratory services for such tests and results are usually expected in a week, she added. “The reason for this is to not spread infection to anyone else.”

New Zealand has sent a medical team to Cook Islands to help the country prepare for the arrival of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

It comes as four suspected cases are reported in Fiji, and a one confirmed in Tonga.

New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said it was vital that New Zealand was working hard in partnership with its neighbours to ensure the region was safe and as prepared as could be for the virus.

“In partnership with the World Health Organization, New Zealand has deployed a team to Cook Islands to support Covid-19 preparedness, with further joint trips planned to Tokelau and Niue from next week,” Peters said.

The multinational Pacific regional coronavirus response plan, which also involved Australia, comes in response to requests for assistance from Pacific island countries.

The New Zealand government has contracted the Institute of Environmental Science and Research to receive samples of potential Covid-19 cases for testing, free of charge.

At the weekend, the government agreed to the demands of Aitutaki leaders to ban cruise ships from visiting the Pa Enua for the next two months.

The Democratic party is supporting the ban. “We urge everyone, government, opposition, private sector, Ui Ariki, Aronga Mana, churches and our people to work together in order to minimise our loss when – not if – this virus arrives,” said leader Tina Browne.

“The lives of our people is our priority.”

Rarotonga was ill-equipped to handle an outbreak, she said, and it would be even more damaging if the virus spread to the Pa Enua.