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Covid hospitalisation ‘inevitable’

Saturday 12 March 2022 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Health, National

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Covid hospitalisation ‘inevitable’
Rarotonga hospital. CI NEWS/22011620

A leading Covid-19 expert says it is ‘inevitable’ that the Cook Islands will experience some hospitalisations from the virus, as the virus makes its way through the community.

Cook Islands public health advisor Dr Douglas Lush’s comments come after the latest Covid numbers show there have been 280 community cases so far, but no hospitalisations.

Thirty-three new cases were recorded yesterday – down from the record 41 cases on Thursday.

“So far, the virus has largely been circulating among the younger community, such as in schools, who tend to be less vulnerable,” Lush said.

“It’s inevitable it will also circulate amongst older or more vulnerable parts of the community. In turn, this will likely lead to hospitalisations.”

Lush said Te Marae Ora (TMO) had contingencies in the event of people needing additional care and for hospitalisations occurring due to the ongoing spread of the virus.

“We are absolutely prepared and the Pfizer vaccination provides us with additional care and protection,” Lush said.

Prime Minister Mark Brown said the nation was ready for the arrival of hospital admissions due to Covid-19, particularly as their dedicated Covid ward at the Rarotonga hospital was established.

PM Brown said the current Covid-19 numbers were actually tracking lower than expected.

“I think they’re pretty low, lower than I expected I did expect that the increase could be quicker but … I guess part of that is the high vaccination rates we’ve got which does help dampen down the effectiveness of the transmission,” he said.

“I don’t know what we will get up to, but overseas estimates numbers double every three days, we haven’t quite seen that yet so it could be at a slower period of peaking than we think it might be.

“At the moment TMO is unable to give me any accurate measures, it’s just three to six weeks is when we could expect that peak.”

TMO made changes to the testing process earlier this week, where people no longer require a PCR test after a RAT test comes out positive for Covid-19.

“When there was no Covid-19 on the island, RAT tests weren’t as suitable on their own for diagnosing the first cases, as they occasionally deliver false positives,” Lush said.

“The early cases took on enormous significance in terms of being the first virus on the island, but now with Covid-19 widely established in the community, the RAT tests can serve their purpose.”

Lush said tourists testing positive for Covid-19 would be able to isolate at the resorts, provided all protocols are properly observed.

Earlier this week, the Government reduced the required isolation period from 10 days to seven days.

Lush said this would allow for some flexibility, particularly for tourists who are able to return within a short timeframe.

He said all tourists with symptoms can get free tests from the health clinics and TMO have supported tourist venues in training and the supply of test kits.

PM Brown said the decision to make RAT tests more widely available would benefit Cook Islands families as well as tourists.

“It’s not so much aimed at tourists, I think it was our people who were complaining about the high costs,” he said

“We decided let’s make (RAT tests) available as well as the PCR, so really was two factors the easy availability of RATs that end up being used and now widely used and accepted in New Zealand and of course the cost factor as well.

“I think it will make it a lot easier for people, if you have got a family of four that’s a thousand bucks in PCR tests, with RAT tests that cost significantly drops down.”

PM Brown said as New Zealand develops its own approach to the Covid-19 outbreak, the Cook Islands would likely follow.

“What we’re finding is a lot of our restrictions we had in place are becoming redundant,” Brown said.

“That’s why we are adjusting and changing as things go on, so you may even see in the next couple of months no requirement for testing at all just the vaccination requirement to get on the plane because Covid would have been wide spread throughout New Zealand and expected to be wide spread through our country as well.

“There will come a day that you won’t need to wear a mask, you won’t need to get tested, you won’t need to have vaccination. That’s the aim that we are all going for is back to normal as much as possible.”