PM Announcement: COVID-19 Situation Update, First COVID-19 Community Case

25 February 2022

Kia orana tatou katoatoa,

Late yesterday our health ministry Te Marae Ora confirmed the first case of Covid-19 in the Cook Islands that is not either a recent arrival into the country or a close contact of one of the previous eight cases.

To give you a bit of background, case number nine developed mild symptoms of sneezing, runny nose, and fever earlier this week, which later progressed to an upset stomach, headaches, and coughing.

They were still attending work at this time and when their symptoms worsened, they were RAT tested in their workplace yesterday afternoon by their appointed Covid-19 health and safety officer.

This RAT test returned a positive result and case nine was instructed to go directly to Tupapa Primary Care for a PCR test, which also returned a positive result.

This case is considered to have been infectious from Thursday, February 17, through to Saturday, February 19, and so far, nine close contacts have been identified, including two household contacts.

While case nine did attend work for several days while infectious, due to the nature of their work – in a non-front-facing back office – the number of workplace close contacts is low.

Contact tracing has been activated to trace case nine’s movements over the previous week and as, yet the only location of interest identified so far is Rarotonga Rentals across from the airport, from Thursday February 17 to Friday February 18, between the hours of 8.30am to 4pm each day. The locations of interest may change as our investigations continue.

Case nine has been served with a 10-day Isolation Order commencing from yesterday, February 24. All nine of their current close contacts have been PCR tested and these tests are being processed this morning. While we await their test results, all nine close contacts are currently under 10-day quarantine orders, and they will be tested again on days five and nine of this period.

Of the nine positive cases, one has completed their 10-day isolation period and two are scheduled to be released tonight, while the remaining six will stay in isolation. All of these nine cases have been fully vaccinated and none have required hospital treatment at any stage – in fact, three of them have had no symptoms at all.

There are also 68 close contacts currently in quarantine, with 15 expected to be released later today, pending the results of their day nine PCR tests.

Now, regarding case nine and the fact that this is our first case that is neither a visitor nor directly connected to one.

I know some of you will be concerned about this, and worried that even as we speak Covid-19 is circulating throughout our community – and it is understandable that you may feel this way.

It may well be true that Covid-19 is circulating through our community right now, and it may be that transmission has been occurring without us detecting it.

But the important thing to remember is that thanks to our extremely successful vaccination programme, and our resulting high vaccination rate, the vast majority of us are thoroughly protected against this virus. And as we’ve seen with the current cases, many people may not even have any of the symptoms which signal that they have the virus.

The Covid-19 vaccine which we have used has been scientifically proven to slow the spread of transmission and also reduces the health impacts in those who do contract this virus. The evidence so far would appear to confirm this, with none of our nine positive cases requiring any kind of hospital treatment so far.

But while, as I said, the vast majority of us are protected, we must also not forget those who were unwilling or for some reason unable to be vaccinated, as well as those who are otherwise vulnerable to the Covid-19 virus.

Our fight against Covid is truly a team effort, and for that reason we must all continue to be vigilant and continue to do our very best to protect the more vulnerable amongst us.

This is why it is so very important that we continue to observe our Covid-19 health and safety measures by wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing, tagging in with our CookSafe cards and practising good general hygiene.

As well as this, I urge all of you to please get yourself tested for Covid-19 if you are displaying Covid-like symptoms, which most commonly include fever, cough, excess fatigue, sore throat or aches and pains. And if you are feeling unwell, please stay home until you are able to get tested.

PCR testing will continue to be available to all who require it at Tupapa Primary Care from 9am-3pm, seven days a week. To make an appointment for your test, or if you’re a visitor and need directions, just call 20065 or 20066.

RAT testing will also be available at the airport testing station during Air Rarotonga operating hours for a fee of $10.

Both TMO and I will continue to provide periodic public updates on our test numbers and results as the Covid-19 situation in the Cook Islands develops, as well as if any further new positive cases emerge.

Kia orana e kia manuia.