Dr Joseph Williams, former PM of Cook Islands, dies after contracting Covid-19

By Te Ao - Māori News

Former Cook Islands Prime Minister and much-respected GP, Dr Joseph Williams, has died after contracting Covid-19, the Ministry of Health has confirmed.

Dr Williams, who was in his 80s, passed away Friday night in Auckland City Hospital and is the second Covid-19 related death in as many days, the Ministry says.

The Pasifika Medical Association, who Dr Williams was the patron of, shared news on the passing earlier today.

“His love, generosity and kindness has touched so many families, friends and colleagues. He has left us all with the gifts of his journey and for that we are forever grateful,” Dr Kiki Maoate, nephew and President of the Pasifika Medical Association, said in a statement.

"Rest well on your voyage to the heavens. Akangaroi ete Rangatira i toou teretere atuanga kite nagai i akapapa iaae e to tatou Atua”.

Dr Williams' legacy spans more than 60 years, including having a political career as Minister of Health and Education in the Cook Islands, as the medical superintendent, surgeon, physician, and director of health and social services. He served as Cook Islands Prime Minister for four months in 1999. 

Dr Williams was a member of the executive board at the World Health Organisation.  In 2016, he received the organisation's award of appreciation for his role in the elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis. He was recognised as a world-leading researcher in eczema, prostate cancer and diabetes. 

Dr Williams was born in Aitutaki, went to Northland College, graduated from Otago Medical School in 1960 and later completed a Master in Public Health at the University of Hawai'i. 

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters offered his condolences to Dr Williams’ family, as well to as the people and government of the Cook Islands.

“Dr Williams was a dedicated and passionate man. He was an enduring example of a Cook Islander who came to New Zealand for education, and then made a real difference in his chosen career.

“His family and the people of the Cook Islands should be proud of all that he achieved.”