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Covid requirement to be reviewed

Thursday 24 March 2022 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Health, National

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Covid requirement to be reviewed
Prime Minister Mark Brown shows off the Cook Islands’ Covid-19 contact tracing app, CookSafe+. Office of the Prime Minister/21041640

The Cook Islands Government will be making announcements on the future of its Covid-19 requirements, as the island nation’s Covid-19 numbers pass the 1000 mark.

Te Marae Ora (TMO) health ministry is still advising people to use contact tracing, but public health advisor Dr Douglas Lush said it was likely that contact tracing will soon be dropped as a requirement.

“It definitely served its purpose, particularly during the Delta outbreak, but now the Omicron wave is on us, the focus has to be on close family contacts,” Lush said.

“It was set up during Delta, but Omicron is so infectious it’s not possible to track everyone.”

The New Zealand Government announced this week that it would remove vaccine pass requirements, most vaccine mandates, QR code scanning and outdoor gathering limits.

When the Cook Islands News asked the government whether it would be taking similar measures, a spokesperson said “the Prime Minister will be making an address on Friday that will cover off these questions”.

Titikaveka Puna leader Alistair Macquarie said contact tracing was a good system “if you want to keep Covid-19 out”.

“But now we’re getting more virulent strains,” Macquarie said.

Macquarie also said there was increasing pressure on the Puna leaders, as Omicron made its way through the community.

“There are already puna leaders affected with Covid,” he said. 

Te Marae Ora is predicting cases in Rarotonga to reach 7000 – more than half the island’s population – and so far, the numbers had been proceeding as expected.

However there have been only five recorded cases in Aitutaki.

“I wonder whether it’s the result of people with flu-like symptoms not being tested,” Lush said.

“The more we’re able to spread out the peak, the better,” he said.

Reiterating on his earlier comments Lush said he was expecting there to be hospitalisations as a result of Covid-19, but so far there had been none directly linked to Covid-19.

“We don’t know why it hasn’t happened yet, it may well be down to the high vaccination rate in the Cook Islands,” Lush said.

“Hospitalisation beds are reserved for those who are more serious.”

So far, there have been 1060 Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began, of which 456 are still active. There were 112 cases reported for Tuesday.