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Cooks brace as first Covid-19 case reaches community

Monday 14 February 2022 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in Economy, National

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Cooks brace as first Covid-19 case reaches community
People get tested for Covid-19 at the drive through testing in August, 2021. PHOTO: CI NEWS/21081715

Cook Islands last night reported its first Covid-19 community case, bringing an end to the country’s two-year Covid-19 free run.

The country is bracing for more Covid-19 cases this week after 14 locations of interest – including multiple night clubs and eateries – in Rarotonga were identified by Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health last night.

The positive case currently isolated and under observation at their private holiday accommodation, arrived in Rarotonga on Thursday, February 10.

Prime Minister Mark Brown in a statement last night confirmed the case is not connected to the visitor who tested positive for Omicron after leaving Rarotonga and arriving back in New Zealand last Monday.

The positive (Rarotonga) case was a close contact of a family member in Auckland who had tested positive on Saturday in New Zealand. As a precaution, this person went to the Tupapa drive through yesterday to get tested.

While she was asymptomatic, she returned a positive result in just a few hours later, PM Brown said last night.

“The case been issued an Isolation Order. The case is travelling with two others, and they will all remain in isolation until they no longer test positive for Covid-19.”

It is unknown whether this is an Omicron variant. Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health will be sending the positive test specimen to NZ this week to confirm the variant.

The health ministry last night announced 14 locations of interest which includes a number of bars and nightclubs, eateries, a bank and supermarket.

Those people deemed to be close contacts of this case are being contacted by the ministry and advised to get tested.

In addition, anyone displaying Covid-19-like symptoms – which most commonly include fever, cough, sore or scratchy throat or aches and pains – is asked to get tested at the drive-through at Te Taua Terevete (Constitution) Park testing station today, any time from 9am to 4pm.

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“If you are feeling unwell, please stay home until you are able to get tested – and for the rest of us, remember to mask up, practice physical distancing, tag in with your CookSafe card and keep up those good general hygiene habits,” PM Brown said.

Despite the positive case, the Cook Islands borders with New Zealand will remain open.

However all passenger flights to the Pa Enua have been suspended. For Aitutaki, passenger travel to Aitutaki is suspended until this Wednesday. For the rest of the Pa Enua, passenger travel will be suspended for seven days. Outwards travel from the Pa Enua to Rarotonga will be allowed.

Schools will be open today but all students and teachers on Rarotonga and Aitutaki are now encouraged to wear masks while indoors. For those at school in the rest of the Pa Enua, they are requested to keep up with the health measures that have already been implemented.

PM Brown said: “I understand that some of you may feel frightened or anxious but please rest assured that all branches of our government are working together to deal with this situation to protect us all.”

“We have expected this virus, we have prepared for it, and we are ready to fight it.

“The protocols and procedures we have put in place are working and already making a difference as our various government teams and taskforces go about doing what now needs to be done to protect our communities. We have remained vigilant; we have caught this case – and now I ask you to remain vigilant too.”

Brown says the country’s extremely high vaccination rate is a factor in our favour, as it slows the spread of transmission and reduces the health impacts in those who do contract this virus.

“As we all know, the best defence against this virus is by keeping calm, working together, and making use of all the health and safety precautions that we know make a real difference in protecting us all from Covid-19.

“Those of you who have changed your mind and want to get vaccinated, please contact TMO who will arrange an appointment for your vaccination. This is our best defence along with wearing your mask, maintain physical distancing, tag in with your CookSafe card and keep up those good general hygiene habits.”