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Aitutaki holding tight after detecting first Covid case

Thursday 10 March 2022 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Health, National

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Aitutaki holding tight after detecting first Covid case
PHOTO: RYAN ANDERSON/STUFF

As the island of Aitutaki experienced its first Covid-19 case this week, community leaders were doing everything they could to minimise the spread.

Community leaders in Aitutaki are holding tight after the Southern Group island recorded its first and only case of Covid-19 on Monday.

Cook Islands Secretary of Health Bob Williams said when the first Covid-19 case was reported in Rarotonga, there was “a lot of anxious people not knowing what the effect of the virus will be like”.

“But I think over time, since we’ve been through this for three weeks now people have kind of settled down because they’ve had experience shared by some other people,” Williams said.

“It’s a similar experience in Aitutaki because of the first case everyone is anxious about it so we just have to let them go through the motion, eventually it depends on how Aitutaki goes in the next few days because it’s about day three, by tomorrow (today) and Friday we should know if there’s other people being infected. There’s four of them in the household so all of them have been isolated.”

The case reported on the island has not surprised principal of Araura Primary School, Tauka Tane, who said the school of about 90 pupils were already well prepared for the arrival of Covid-19 in their community.

“We’ve been working very closely with Te Marae Ora even before the case was reported. This included mask-wearing for both our pupils and teachers, practicing social distancing and scanning in and out of the premises. It’s all the basic stuff that needs to be done,” Tane said.

“We were ready for a case to have occurred in the community, now that it has, it feels almost normal.”

Marian Daniel of the CICC Mission House in Tautu said it was a “bit worrying” that a Covid-19 case had been reported in Aitutaki, but the church and the community was doing everything it could to protect people from the spread.

“We’ve been doing all of the social distancing, wearing of masks, and keeping in touch with TMO. I do worry about the kids going to school, it’s very hard to separate them. We’re lucky that our church is well ventilated,” Daniel said.                                                                                                                      

Araura College principal Gaylyn Lockington said people within Aitutaki had been following closely what was going on in Rarotonga with Covid-19 case numbers.

“We expected it to come here,” Lockington said.

“The community is pretty good at responding to this, we have been watching Rarotonga closely.”

Lockington said some parents had taken their children out of school because they were scared of contracting Covid-19.

There was also community concern about the lack of access to Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) on the island, she said.

“I’ve been told there isn’t enough resources to do everyone that wants to be tested on the island,” Lockington said.

“That’s one of the things that we’ve been struggling with.”

Lockington asked the community to keep up the safety measures.

“That will ensure we will keep control of the spread of this virus.”

Tamanu Beach Resort general manager Nick Henry said he was aware that people had been dropping off food and other supplies to the case and close contacts.

“The voluntary organisations have really stepped up,” Henry said.

Henry said he understood two close contacts had voluntarily isolated themselves because they were presenting symptoms, despite the fact that their RAT tests had come back negative.

“This shows that people are taking care,” he said.

Henry said Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health needed to keep getting the right messages out to the community.

“It’s not something that can be said just once or twice,” he said.

“Some businesses managed to get themselves mobilised before others.”

Henry also said he had heard some concern on social media about access to RATs and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs).

“That’s something that needs to be monitored,” he said.