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Additional health measures in wake of Omicron community cases in NZ

Monday 24 January 2022 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in Health, National

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Additional health measures in wake of Omicron community cases in NZ
Prime Minister Mark Brown. SUPPLIED/21011409

Additional public health measures have been included in the Cook Islands Covid-19 Safe Framework following the announcement of community transmission of the Omicron Covid-19 variant in New Zealand.

However, the government approved to retain the existing International Quarantine Free Travel border settings despite eight new community cases of Omicron in New Zealand.

According to NZ health ministry, to date there are 19 community cases of Covid-19 linked to what it is calling the January Omicron cluster.

The Cook Islands Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Mark Brown met yesterday to consider additional public health measures following this community transmission of the highly infectious variant.

Cabinet approved the following additional measures and may consider other measures in the coming days, a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister said.

The additional measures include:

  • No unvaccinated people will be allowed entry into the Cook Islands for the next month. Cook Islands Residents or Work Permits Holders who are parents/caregivers of children under 5 years may apply for an exemption for their child/children. The Cook Islands Travel Advisory will be updated.
  • Mandatory mask wearing in all public indoor settings e.g., retail, workplaces, church.
  • All schools (primary and secondary) and Early Childhood Centres to close to students for two weeks (or an additional two weeks if already closed), resuming Monday, February 7. This will allow time for families with 5–11-year-olds the opportunity to receive the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine which is expected in-country soon.
  • RAT testing required for all travellers to Aitutaki prior to departure from Rarotonga from tomorrow (Monday 24 January).
  • Gatherings, irrespective of vaccination status, limited to a maximum of 100.

Unless otherwise specified, it is intended that they will all take effect from Wednesday, January 26, the statement said.

The Cabinet noted that Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health intends to resume the Pa Enua vaccination roll-out later this week.

Liana Scott, the president of the Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council, said the industry is relieved that government is sticking to its promise of keeping the border open for travel as NZ moves into “red”.

“We were always aware that it was just a matter of time before Omicron came out into the New Zealand community, and given the pre-travel requirements to get into Rarotonga as well as high vaccination rates on island, it is no surprise that the border remains open,” said Scott, who is also the general manager of the Muri Beach Club Hotel.

“On top of these measures of course, are the on the ground additional precautions such as restrictions in high risk venues, such as mask wearing, social distancing and so on.

“Retail outlets, local produce suppliers, fishermen, rental cars, stationary suppliers, printers – everyone is affected – but more importantly, it allows businesses to retain staff, it allows sole traders to continue with their small businesses and prevents them from looking for opportunities offshore.

“We need to bounce back – we need to learn to live with Covid-19 and its variants – we need to find the balance that is going to keep us safe whilst allowing us to move the economy forward by being sustainable. We cannot continue growing our debt levels and/or become too reliant on outside support.”

Meanwhile Cabinet was also briefed about two recently arrived tourists, one of whom had been notified by the NZ Ministry of Health that they had visited a location of interest.

The couple tested negative on Saturday and are quarantined with Day 5 and Day 9 tests to follow. Only when they have tested negative for both remaining tests will they no longer be quarantined.