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Covid-19 ‘normalised’: TMO

Tuesday 18 October 2022 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Health, National

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Covid-19 ‘normalised’: TMO
Secretary of Health Bob Williams. RYAN ANDERSON/STUFF/21081919

The Cook Islands is likely to let its Covid-19 restrictions lapse at the end of this month.

Secretary of Health Bob Williams told Cook Islands News that as the country was in the process of “normalising” Covid-19, “so it doesn’t matter whether a resident or visitor contracts Covid, the process is the same and how they are managed”.

Williams said the process for people who contracted Covid-19 included voluntary self-isolation for a week.

“If and when required, the Covid-19 Regulations can be re-introduced under the Ministry of Health Act. When the new Public Health Bill is passed by Parliament, which is being scheduled for the last sitting of this year, then the new Public Health Act will include public health response, process and measures to combat Covid-19 and other future pandemics,” Williams said.

“The current Ministry of Health (Covid-19) Regulations 2022 is being proposed not to be extended at the end of October 2022. There are only three active cases on Rarotonga – no new cases in the last couple of days. Covid-19 is normalised in the Cook Islands.”

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office said “there are no immediate concerns”.

“I’m advised that the Covid-19 Regulations will be left to lapse at end of this month and can be reintroduced if required at a later time,” she said.

The Cook Islands Government removed the bulk of the Covid-19 restrictions in September, including the vaccination requirement for travel to and from the Cook Islands.

New Zealand Government this week decided to scrap vaccine mandates, gathering limits and lockdowns, QR code display, entry requirements at the border, traveller vaccine requirements and testing for people in self-isolation.

However New Zealand public health expert Professor Michael Baker told Radio New Zealand that he believed there was still a need for some kind of alert level.

“What I do think we need is that we have a system that when the risk of infection rises we have the equivalent of an alert level system that describes the level of risk in a way that people really understand,” he said.

“We have alert level systems for fires, for earthquakes, for all these other threats. I think we need one again for the pandemic.”

Baker said such a system could have simple measures that kick in when cases reach a certain level, such as mask mandates for public transport.

“I think at the moment, unfortunately, government and other groups are quite worried as being seen to do anything systematic.

“I think we need that leadership with the pandemic.”

Since the pandemic began in the Cook Islands, there has been a total of 6389 cases.