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Mask advice follows Covid rise in Cooks

Friday 30 December 2022 | Written by Cameron Scott | Published in Health, Local, National

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Mask advice follows  Covid rise in Cooks
Secretary of Health Bob Williams. RYAN ANDERSON/STUFF/21081919

Cook Islands residents and visitors concerned about catching Covid-19 or suffering a reinfection of the virus should wear face masks as well as applying ‘normal health measures’, says the Secretary of Health.

Bob Williams’ advice follows what he describes as “a slight increase” in Covid cases in the Cook Islands over the past week.

“We are advising everyone that the option to protect (one’s) own self is encouraged by wearing facial masks, including applying the normal public health measures. We will review these requirements in due course as cases increase.”

Williams was responding to questions Cook Islands News sent to him on December 22, asking whether the government planned to take any measures to minimise a potential rise in Covid-19 infections and reinfections as a result of infected expat Cook Islanders visiting their home country for holidays.

The questions were prompted by a story in the New Zealand Herald in which noted epidemiologist Michael Baker warned that up to 85,000 people could be in isolation by Boxing Day. Health services warned that it was putting a huge strain on a stretched workforce.

“In the light of this surge, and considering that so many Cook Islanders are visiting over the Christmas-New Year holidays, is the Cook Islands Ministry of Heath considering any new measures to limit the spread of the virus?” Cook Islands News asked.

“If not, what advice do you have for holidaymakers who are keen to avoid catching it? Michael Baker is suggesting limiting gatherings to well-ventilated or outdoor spaces and people are being urged to continue wearing masks as a precaution.”

Another question asked whether TMO had any concerns about the vulnerability of the elderly in the Cook Islands, given the fact that NZ health services had said the current wave was hitting older people quite hard.

While not addressing those questions directly, Williams said TMO had last week received donated Paxlovid medications from the New Zealand Government.

“TMO have posted last week on its Facebook page the dispensation criteria to anyone that may have Covid,” Williams added.

Yesterday NZ news website Stuff reported that of the 32,010 new Covid-19 cases reported in NZ over the past week, 9660 (almost a third) were reinfections.

Of these, 367 were reinfections reported within 90 days of a previous infection. Modellers said because of under-reporting of cases, some “first infections” would actually be reinfections – either because people didn’t report their first infection, or were asymptomatic the first time.

Of the more than 2 million cases in NZ to date, there have been 106,320​ reported reinfections. The true number of reinfections in NZ is thought by experts to be about 50 per cent of current cases, across the population. 

Last week one Rarotonga resident said she had suffered a Covid-19 reinfection despite having had the full course of vaccinations.

The resident, who declined to be named, said her symptoms had been just as bad as the first time she had suffered the virus.

Other residents Cook Islands News spoke to also claimed to have suffered reinfections – some of them involving a couple of days of relatively light illness, and others more severe.