Secretary of Health Dr Josephine Aumea Herman says we will never know potentially if Covid-19 came into the country and walked back out again.
“However, if you look at the numbers and follow through, there’s a good chance it might have been,” she said.
Dr Herman addressed an audience of over 100 at Cook Islands Tourism’s Global Breakfast Update this week, where members of the tourism industry gathered at the National Auditorium to hear about essential requirements for a state of preparedness for a potential travel bubble between Cook Islands and New Zealand.
She was one of a number of presenters including Greg Stanaway from the Private Sector Taskforce, Cook Islands Tourism chief executive officer Halatoa Fua, director of sales and marketing Karla Eggleton and Destination Development director Metua Vaiimene.
Key topics covered were the Cook Islands Promise, the Kia Orana Plus rapid training programme and the CookSafe contact tracing system.
The recurring theme of all the initiatives is to ensure there is a commitment to protect all Cook Islands residents and international visitors from Covid-19, when the borders open with New Zealand.
Dr Herman said she has been in constant contact with her counterparts at the Ministry of Health in New Zealand via Zoom meetings.
Discussions have been centred around working through lifting quarantine requirements for those people returning to New Zealand from Cook Islands.
“The borders have been open for nearly six weeks,” she said.
The efforts of the country as a whole have resulted in Covid-free status.
“I just to acknowledge the industry and all our partners – thank you for all your help. We did this as a country and it was amazing how everyone pulled together,” she said.
“Throughout this whole process I know it’s taken a huge toll on many of us financially, socially and there’s much more to go.”
Dr Herman remembers going to the Global Breakfast Update back in March and the very different conversation that was taking place at that time.
“It was a difficult time - it was quite tense,” she said.
In terms of the health measures, everyone has a responsibility to continue to play their part, with the simple but most effective things like regular hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes.
Dr Herman said the hardest of the health measures to follow is practical social distancing.
“If we were following this right now, we would have failed by sitting too close together,” she said.
“We are just at the beginning of a new era, a new norm that we need to adapt to very quickly in order to survive not just health wise but economically as well.”