More Top Stories

Rugby Union

Bigger and busier 2023: PM

31 December 2022

Rugby league

Moana target 2025 World Cup

11 November 2022

‘Case zero’ grateful for local support

Saturday 19 February 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Pacific Islands, Regional


‘Case zero’ grateful for local support
Shopping from Papa Ken Ben. Photo: Supplied/22021831

The Cooks Islands is providing wrap-around support to the women detected as the first Covid-19 cases in Rarotonga.

The three Auckland women have been in isolation in a bungalow at a property in the Titikaveka Puna district.

“Like honest, the people here have been amazing, just so nice ... we’re just thankful,” said ‘case zero’ who would like to remain anonymous.

RNZ Pacific has spoken exclusively with the first Covid-19 case detected in the Cook Islands. She has Omicron and is asymptomatic. Her two traveling companions who have since tested positive have a “tickle in their throat”, but it may just be a result of being a little run down from travelling, case zero said.

The three women were not surprised when the two companions subsequently tested positive after initially returning negative tests, “they were definitely banking on a positive”, case zero said.

“We had already been together since Thursday since the day we landed in Rarotonga,” since then they had all been in the same room, she said.

“We spend $NZ250 on a PCR test to get here which is a hefty amount but what more can you really do … it all comes down to turn around at the end of the day, if you do a PCR test 24-hours before your flight that might help but it would be a massive turn around that you would be asking for,” case zero said.

She said the test should cost less so everyone can afford it and a test with a quicker turnaround should be available.

Case zero got tested again after receiving news she was a close contact of someone at a wedding she attended in Auckland. She has since tested positive for the virus and received news from home that around “17 out of 100 people from the wedding have tested positive so far”.

“With the numbers that are coming out from the wedding I would say that it is possibly from the wedding in Auckland,” she said.

“I’ve been recorded as the first case in history here … This is definitely not what I wanted for history books,” case zero said.

She has family in Rarotonga, they are in isolation too, “because I visited them, as you do when you get off a plane … so yeah my family have been checking in on us making sure we are safe … they have definitely been amazing, amazing family”.

Prime Minister Mark Brown has applauded the first case for getting tested.

“Despite having no symptoms, you did the right thing and came in and got tested – and by doing that you have probably significantly reduced the spread of the virus. So, thank you for doing the right thing and making a difference,” he said.

When case zero first tested positive there were some teething issues, confusion around information and whether the women could receive a care pack with food, case zero said. But it has all been sorted, they did get a care pack and the local community has helped them.

“We’re grateful for the support that we have had so far especially from Bella, she has been amazing going above and beyond for us, and everybody else that has also pitched in to make sure that we are all good, just kind hearted people here on the island which we know the island to be. From the bottom of my heart ... sorry that it has happened,” case zero said.

Annabelle Tatuava, is the owner of the accommodation facility housing the three Covid positive cases. She is also known as Bella, she upgraded the trio to a bungalow with a waterfront view when they first arrived. Since the women tested positive for Covid-19 she has moved them to another dwelling and is not charging them for their stay.

Being hospitable is what it is all about in Rarotonga, Annabelle Tatuava said and “the last thing we want is that she gets the blame, which is already happening here on the island at the moment. If they get the blame for bringing Covid here, because everyone is... freaking out at the moment”.

Case zero has spoken highly of Bella’s hospitality and the local church and community groups too, “we’ve got mangoes, watermelon, pawpaw, bananas, just amazing produce, fresh produce, words can’t express the amount of love that we have for the people that have pitched in,” case zero said.

They cannot wait to go for a swim when their isolation time is up, they will stay on for a couple of days after getting the go ahead from the government to get a proper holiday and “finish off on a good note”.

Covid in the Cook Islands’ timeline (local time):

13 February – “This evening we detected our first case of Covid-19 that has arrived into our country,” Prime Minister Mark Brown said.

14 February – “On Sunday we carried out 90 swab tests for Covid-19 with all coming back negative except for our one positive case,” Brown said.

15 February – “On Monday, another 424 tests were carried out, with all 424 returning a negative result.”

16 February – “Health ministry Te Marae Ora (TMO) has confirmed that the two traveling companions (close contacts) of the case first confirmed on Sunday 13 February, have tested positive for Covid-19,” Brown said.

17 February – “Health ministry Te Marae Ora (TMO) confirmed another positive case of Covid-19 late on Thursday, February 17, bringing the current total number of positive cases in the Cook Islands to four.”