Covid case numbers rise in Cook Islands

By James Perry

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown has suspended all contact sports and limited gatherings and social events to 50 people in the hope of limited the spread of Covid-19 cases in the Pacific nation.

Brown confirmed today the Cook Islands has recorded 71 positive cases. The first case was recorded just two weeks ago. 

He is pleased that none of the 71 cases have yet needed hospital treatment but said more cases are expected in coming weeks at which point the focus will on the hospitalisation rates.

"Having no hospital cases so far is of course a result of our high national vaccination rate but it is also due to the good work of all our people in following the Covid-19 health and safety guidelines, so I’d like to thank you, everyone, for doing your part, and I strongly encourage you all to keep up this good work," he told the nation in an address.

The Cook Islands is one of the highest vaccinated nations in the world, with 97 per cent over 12-years-old fully protected, and 74% boosted, while 83% of 5-11-year-olds have had their first dose.

Sixteen children under 15-years old are among the cases while two people aged over 70 are also confirmed cases.

"While all of our positive cases are being closely monitored, we will be paying extra careful attention to our young ones and the elderly, should any of them develop anything more than mild symptoms," Brown said.

To combat the spread of cases in the Cook Islands, Brown has put a halt to contact sports and gatherings from midnight tonight until midnight Sunday. Domestic travel has also been restricted, with flights to Aitutaki still permitted, pending RAT test results. However, travel to the Pa Enua (outer islands) will remain suspended, also until Sunday night. 

Te Marae Ora Cook Islands Ministry of Health yesterday urged everyone to get tested. Brown says that will allow the government to get a "stocktake of the status of the virus. 

"Because of our small size as a country, we can do things a lot quicker and more effectively than other countries.

"If we continue our strategy of high vaccination for protection, mask-wearing, social distancing, and keeping up with hygiene practices, then we will weather the storm with very little damage."