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Moving Cook Islands past and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic

Tuesday 19 April 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Opinion


Moving Cook Islands past and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic

Government will continually be looking at how we can better manage our new reality of living with Covid-19, writes Prime Minister Mark Brown.

Kia Orana,

Welcome back everyone after what I hope was an enjoyable and restful Easter weekend for you all, as we commemorated the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

As well as an opportunity for fellowship with family and friends, Easter is both a time for reflection, looking back on the sacrifice Christ made for us two millennia ago, and also a time to look forward to new beginnings, in line with the new life His resurrection promises.

This theme of new beginnings is particularly appropriate for us here in the Cook Islands right now, with those of us in Rarotonga having moved past the peak of Omicron and looking to leave behind many of the restrictions that were previously necessary to slow the spread of the virus.

At the same time, the focus of our Covid-19 preparations and precautions has now moved to Aitutaki and the rest of the Pa Enua, with cases there on the rise, including a total of three active cases in Tongareva as at 8am yesterday morning – and 84 active cases in Aitutaki.

While some of our people in the Pa Enua may be understandably nervous at the thought of Covid arriving on their shores, our experiences in Rarotonga have shown us that there is really nothing to fear, as long as we follow the appropriate health and safety guidelines put in place by Te Marae Ora.

Above and beyond these health and safety guidelines, we know that our high vaccination rates in the Pa Enua serve as the chief source of protection against the Covid-19 virus.

It is our high vaccination rate that has totally protected our people from serious Covid-related illness in Rarotonga, and it is our high vaccination rate that will continue to protect our people in the Pa Enua.

In addition, as we begin to reopen our domestic borders with each of the Pa Enua, staff and representatives from Te Marae Ora, Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Finance & Economic Management have already started the process of meeting with these communities and providing the training and support they need to deal with the spread of Covid-19 and its effects.

For example, ahead of the reopening of Atiu’s air border yesterday, a dedicated health centre was set up on the island to help deal with the Covid-19 cases that are expected to develop there over the coming weeks.

Resources and medications have been transported to Atiu as part of our Covid-19 Response Readiness Planning and more than 20 young Atiuans were also trained in how to properly carry out Rapid Antigen Testing and provide support to TMO staff.

Finally, a video conferencing system was installed to allow remote and timely visual consultations on Covid cases between clinicians and the island nurses on Atiu. Government has supported the installation of this system across all of our Pa Enua.

And with travel to Manihiki, Rakahanga and Tongareva set to resume within the next week or so, all of the readiness planning I’ve mentioned above is also already being mobilised for each of these islands – especially in Tongareva with their three cases, where a TMO team is currently helping to coordinate and support their Covid-19 response.

After them will follow Pukapuka, Mitiaro, Mauke and Mangaia, and eventually Nassau and Palmerston as well, as we look to move the entire Cook Islands past and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.

Throughout this period, Government will also continually be looking at how we can better manage our new reality of living with Covid-19, just as other nations the world over are doing the same.

It will take time, and there is still a lot of work to do – especially in the Pa Enua – but our journey towards a new life post-pandemic is well underway.

Stay safe, look after each other, and may God bless us all.

Kia Manuia.