Cooks creates ‘island fortress’

Friday March 13, 2020 Written by Published in Health

Health authorities have send six people’s swabs to New Zealand for coronavirus testing. The results are expected within a week.

It comes as Cook Islands employs “island fortress tactics” to combat Covid-10’s spread.

Brad Ives, senior captain on the supply vessel Kwai, said their ship had been loaded with supplies for five populated coral atolls in the northern Cook Islands, when it received word it would be refused entry.

“There’s cargo on it that will expire,” Ives told Reuters. “It’s a bit of a problem for us that we are solving as we go.”

The island of Pukapuka has been left short of foods like sugar, flour and rice after turning away the Kwai.

“They are short in processed foods which are the main supplies they normally order in bulk – but that’s a small price to pay,” said Pukapukan Kirianu Nio, who now lives on Rarotonga.

Secretary of Health Dr Josephine Aumea Herman said three of the samples were for the people in quarantine.

Those three have been asked to avoid contact with others in the community, after they breached travel bans or travelled in close contact with a sick Covid-19 patient.

The other three swabs are for three visitors who presented at the Coughs and Colds flu clinic, but have now left the island.

Dr Herman said these were not suspected Covid-19 case, adding there are no confirmed cases of the disease in the Cook Islands.

“Some cases are asymptomatic, so we don’t know if it could be the flu virus … we are just doing some surveillance testing,” Dr Herman said.

“Since we don’t have this lab capability, there are negotiations (with New Zealand) in terms of how much we can put through without even having the case definition.”

Dr Herman said there was cost involved in these testing, about $200 per sample.

“That’s why we have to be careful when we are sending samples over … checking our clinical symptoms and signs match the request.”

Covid-19, which started in China, has now spread to 130 countries and the Diamond Princess cruise ship, moored in Japan. It has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

As of last night, there had been 130,000 Covid-19 cases this year, and about 5000 deaths.

Cook Islands’ closest neighbour, French Polynesia, is the first Pacific island nation hit by Covid-19, after one of its MPs was yesterday confirmed to be infected.

Maina Sage was diagnosed in Tahiti, after meeting with the infected French culture minister while in Paris, The Guardian reported.

Dr Herman said every individual in this country had a role to play in keeping themselves safe from Covid-19.

“Now we are used to it, we don’t shake hands, we don’t kiss, we don’t hug and that needs to be translated right across the country including among our kids.

“It’s hard when our culture is based on that and these things are creeping into areas that has traditionally been norm. To me, in order for us to come out after this epidemic has passed is going to be determined (how we act) now.”

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