Starting last night’s address to the nation, Prime Minister Henry Puna thanked the Lord for giving people courage and strength during the country’s greatest threat in modern history.
Hundreds of Covid-19 tests taken in the Cook Islands, he said, had come back negative. Cook Islands, both Rarotonga and the Pa Enua, can officially be confirmed as a Covid-free zone – one of the first nations in the world to confirm this.
He announced some of the more restrictive Code Yellow measures will be eased.
· > All schools will reopen this Monday;
· >Domestic travel restrictions to and from the Pa Enua will be lifted;
· > Non-contact sports will be allowed to resume;
· > Cafés and restaurants can open for normal business, as long as they provide physical distancing;
· > Restriction on the sale of alcohol are under review.
And news that will be music to the ears of worshippers is the reopening of church services this weekend.
Religious Advisory Council president Eric Toleafoa said he was overjoyed. Covid-19 had meant Cook Islands churches journeyed into uncharted territory.
“Praise the Lord. This is wonderful news for our congregations, I know there will be mamas and papas jumping for joy.”
Tomorrow on Saturday, his own Seventh Day Adventist Church will be first to resume full services. Others will follow on Sunday.
Toleafoa said the Covid-19 crisis had been a shock to everyone, but he felt for those church members who have struggled with loneliness and anxiety.
“We are so used to worshipping together,” he said. “We have had to work on doing things differently and look at avenues to reach those stuck at home, but not everyone is on social media.
“Everyone can put their worries behind them. I believe everything will now fall into place.”
Seventh Day Adventist elder Vaopaaki Tearetoa and his wife Ngatereapii have two pews at home – they said they had not missed a Sabbath during church closures.
But as long as the directive had come from Te Marae Ora, the health ministry, they would be happy to return to church.
“I would hate for the work of the ministry and others to be undone,” Papa Vaopaaki said, cautiously.
Mama Ngatereapii would stay at home for now and worship on Sabbath days with her children and grandchildren.
She used the guidance of the Lord in every aspect of her life and she reminded her brother, the Prime Minister, to do the same.
She said: “I love my brother and pray for him during these times.”