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'Acting for change’

19 July 2022

Rugby Union

OPINION: Country meets Covid challenges head-on

Wednesday 4 May 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in On the Street, Opinion

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It was the great American tennis player Arthur Ashe who said, “Success is a journey, not a destination”, writes Prime Minister Mark Brown.

And as the only black man ever to win singles titles at Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open, we have to assume that he knew what he was talking about when it came to being successful.

He also would have no doubt known a thing or two about resilience in the face of adversity and working through whatever obstacles were placed in his way, as he created new ground on his journey towards a number one ranking in the tennis world and also later as a civil rights campaigner and AIDS awareness advocate.

Arthur Ashe passed away in New York City in 1993, but his words still ring true for us here in the Cook Islands today, as we continue our own journey towards overcoming the Covid-19 virus and the impact it has had on our nation over the past two years.

Our destination is not set – it is still not possible at this point in time to say with any certainty just when we will finally be done with Covid, but as we look around at all that we have accomplished and the progress we have made, we can see that our journey has been and continues to be a successful one.

On Rarotonga, where we are well past the peak of infections, almost all restrictions have been lifted. Even mask-wearing is now voluntary and no longer mandatory. People can choose if they want to wear a mask or not. It is now a personal choice.

In Aitutaki, Covid cases look to be nearing their peak, with total case numbers now including 416 recovered cases and 113 active as of yesterday morning.

Already travel restrictions to Aitutaki have been eased, with RAT testing no longer required between Rarotonga and Aitutaki.

Once that peak is in fact reached, then our people on Aitutaki will also be able to look forward to more easing of restrictions on gatherings and isolations, with current rules around contact sport and social gatherings to be lifted at the appropriate time as determined in conjunction with Te Marae Ora and the island government.

So too should the rest of our people across all of the Pa Enua keep this in mind – while your situation right now may not be ideal and there are still obstacles to be overcome, we know from what has happened in Rarotonga and what is happening in Aitutaki that each passing day brings you closer to the end of your island’s Covid cycle.

With new cases now in Atiu, it is only a matter of time before you will have conquered this virus, allowing your daily routines to start returning to something approaching normality.

This returning sense of normality applies also to our visitors, and we can see that our recent decision to do away with the previously required pre-departure Covid test before flying from New Zealand to Rarotonga has already made an impact in this regard, with Sunday’s two inbound flights heavily booked with tourists eager to enjoy that unique Cook Islands experience that only we can provide.

This new influx of tourism represents a welcome boost to the local economy on Rarotonga and we can expect that these increased tourist numbers will eventually spill over to Aitutaki and the rest of the Pa Enua as each island pushes past their peak Covid infections. The welcome revenues that this tourism generates will go some way towards addressing our current issues of inflation and minimum wage.

It has been a long jouney for all the countries of the world through this Covid pandemic, but I would have to say that our journey as a country would have to be one of the best so far.

Kia Manuia,

Hon Mark Brown
Prime Minister