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Covid-19 cases set to spread into unaffected islands

Saturday 21 May 2022 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in National, Outer Islands

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Covid-19 cases set to spread into unaffected islands
Photo: RNZ

Prime Minister Mark Brown expects Covid-19 case numbers to spread into the unaffected islands in the Pa Enua as tourists return.

Figures provided by Te Marae Ora show that Rarotonga has had 4790 cases since the pandemic began, Aitutaki has 572, Atiu has 156, Mauke has 21, Mitiaro has one and Penrhyn has three cases.

There are 109 active cases overall.

Brown said part of the reason for Covid-19 not spreading through the other islands in the Pa Enua was the restrictions on travel.

If travelling to the Pa Enua (Outer Islands) outside of Aitutaki, all passengers (including transit) will require a supervised Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) on the day of departure. Tests are available at the airport for $10 per person.

“The restrictions have been important. They’ve stopped the virus getting there. The RAT testing before you travel has also been important,” Brown said.

“We can see it doesn’t take long for it to spread—we’ve had 16 cases in Mauke over the last day or so, most of the affected were young children. We expect that as travel continues, the other islands will slowly pick up Covid-19 cases.”

“But you’ve got to take into account the fact that for a long time, there was no travel to the Pa Enua at all.”

Brown said Atiu was still going through peak Covid-19.

“I think it will go very quickly through the small communities. It won’t hang around for weeks or months like it has in Rarotonga,” he said.

“They’re close communities, so it’ll spread through quickly.”

Brown also said he believed tourism numbers would return to pre-Covid 19 levels.

“Hopefully it will do so very soon. But it’ll be different. We’re not sure how different it is going to be,” Brown said.

“Right now, the people who are travelling are those who are not averse to the impacts of Covid-19, and worried about how Covid-19 will affect them.

“There are still some countries where Covid-19 is still heavily present, so people would be reluctant to travel to them. For us, we’re one of the first few countries in the Pacific that have opened up, and that has benefited us and will continue to benefit us.”