(File photo) A health worker explains about the Pfizer vaccine to a teenager and his parent. PHOTO: CI NEWS
Covid-19 numbers continue to climb, putting pressure on all aspects of the public service, forcing Ministries to job share in order for the health services to keep afloat.
The latest figures from Te Marae Ora (TMO) show 138 new cases of Covid-19 in the Cook Islands on Tuesday, slightly below Monday’s peak of 169 cases. There have now been 1883 cases in the Cook Islands, of which 821 are active.
The rise in
Covid-19 is putting pressure on the public service, with the Immigration office
in Rarotonga closing on Tuesday due to insufficient staff.
Public Service Commissioner
(PSC) Carl Hunter said the situation across all public services was incredibly
could confirm that there are four Heads of Ministries (HOMs), who were off-work,
with two in isolation due to Covid-19, and two in New Zealand for “medical
Last week, there
were six HOMs in isolation and one in New Zealand for medical reasons.
“The numbers of
public servants infected will be constantly changing, as public servants are
not only getting infected with Covid-19, but there’s also those who are not
infected but are having to isolate due to a household member(s) infected with
Omicron,” Hunter said.
“At the same time,
there are those public servants who have been infected/isolated but who have
now fulfilled the seven days quarantine and have returned to work.
“So, while a
certain Ministry may be stretched on a certain day in terms of staffing
numbers, the situation may change dramatically the following day or week.”
Hunter said the PSC
has been monitoring TMO closely in terms of staff numbers.
“To ensure that
TMO’s service delivery is not compromised we have encouraged/allowed public
servants from those Ministries who can afford to do so to volunteer their staff
to fill any staff vacuums which emerge, such as the Health Intelligence Unit or
Health and Safety Officers to assist conduct Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) tests,”
“As to date, this
initiative has worked well in ensuring that TMO’s services continue to function
in an effective manner.”
Hunter said HOMs
were prepared to mobilise and shift their staff to other Ministries.
“If a HOM alerts
me to a serious staffing shortage issue and the call subsequently made by OPSC
to do so. All hands-on deck, so to speak.
“These very issues
have been discussed at HOMs meetings, and there’s general acknowledgement that
these are extraordinary times, so everyone needs to be innovative and working
together to address emerging challenges.”
Hunter said when
Omicron was detected in the Cook Islands and the infection rate began
increasing steadily, his office contacted the Heads of Crown Agencies,
Statutory Bodies and Ministries to encourage them to split their staffing so
that, if possible, 50 per cent of them would come to work while the other 50
per cent would work from home.
was primarily aimed at ensuring that all the staff at any given agency/ministry
are not infected simultaneously. Hedging your bets so to speak,” Hunter said.
encouraged heads to ensure that those staff who were vulnerable to Covid-19 got
isolated and worked from home.
“And we continue
to encourage any public servant who is feeling the symptoms to get tested
immediately by a Health and Safety Officer (one in each agency/ministry) who
has been trained by TMO to carry out the RAT tests.
“So, we have taken
a proactive approach in an effort to mitigate the risks of public service
delivery been curtailed or stopped altogether as a result of Covid-19.”
officer Dr Douglas Lush said the PSC’s approach was “eminently sensible”.
“It makes sense
when you consider the large number of TMO staff in isolation or quarantine,”
“Some of them may
qualify for essential worker passes while in quarantine, but many of them
won’t, and there is a lot of administration work building up, including
“They need help,
particularly as the number of Covid-19 cases builds up.”