More Top Stories

Rugby league
Pacific Islands

Pacific news in brief

12 August 2022


Competitor at heart

11 August 2022


Final counting underway

10 August 2022


The ride of their lives

8 August 2022

Commonwealth Games
Rugby Union

Authorities explain delay in Covid-19 announcement

Wednesday 16 February 2022 | Written by Caleb Fotheringham | Published in Health, National


Authorities explain delay in  Covid-19 announcement
Cook Islands Prime Minister, Mark Brown. PHOTO: SPREP/COOK ISLANDS GOVERNMENT

The Prime Minister and Secretary of Health say they were waiting for more information before they made the public announcement that a visitor tested positive to Covid-19.

On late Friday night, the Ministry of Health in New Zealand advised the Cook Islands Government that a flight that left Rarotonga on Monday, February 7, was a place of interest – after a passenger on that flight tested positive for the Omicron variant of Covid-19 after arriving back in New Zealand.

The Government through Prime Minister Mark Brown made a public announcement around 1pm on Saturday.

There has been subsequent criticism that the delay of the public announcement was too long.

However, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said: “The decision was taken to wait until our people had a chance to meet and discuss the case in detail; the point being to gather all the facts and provide accurate information once we’d done so.

“We will always fully inform our people about matters surrounding Covid-19. But that information will be accurate, not necessarily rushed.”

The spokeswoman, Jaewynn McKay said the person was probably infectious while in Rarotonga and chose not to approach authorities to report their condition. Instead, the person chose to return to New Zealand where they were tested positive.

Secretary of health, Bob Williams said New Zealand had to investigate the case similar to how it was done with the positive case in Rarotonga on Sunday.

“Having that information is critical to our planning and there was no reason to rush into making an announcement on Friday night apart from the Air NZ flight being listed as a location of interest,” Williams said.

“We knew about the case Friday afternoon but there was no need to go to the public because not much information was available.

“What are we going to tell people, there's a case here, then what? That's why we needed to wait for information to come from New Zealand so we could better inform people.”

He said they needed to inform people of the locations of interest.

“They have to do a case investigation in New Zealand once the case investigation is completed then we publish information.”

Speaking to Cook Islands News on Sunday night the Titikaveka Puna Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) coordinator Alistair Macquarie said he was appalled at the “unacceptable” 18-hour delay in Government’s public notice.

Macquarie, who first saw the location of interest notice on the NZ Ministry of Health website on Friday night, said: “A cautionary public message should have been put out to the public that night (Friday) to keep the public vigilant, why wait 18 hours later, what for… knowing that people would be at the markets in the morning (Saturday) and out shopping.”

“The late notice to the public is unacceptable and irresponsible, they (Government) have the responsibility to get the message out to the public – they represent the wellbeing and welfare of our people.”

McKay said on Tuesday regarding people mixing in the market, that Te Marae Ora had told the public they should be wearing masks in crowded places, practicing social distancing and good hygine practices.

“People have known for some time that the Omicron variant is highly transmissible and has defeated almost every other country in the world’s defences; and it has or is likely to do the same here.”