PM Announcement: COVID-19 Update, 1 April 2022

1 April 2022

A short time ago, Prime Minister Mark Brown addressed the nation. Here is his address:

Kia orana tatou katoatoa,

We have quite a bit of info for you all today so lets get straight into it.

Firstly, let me just say that we should all be very encouraged by the way the outbreak in Rarotonga has been tracking so far and by how well Te Marae Ora and our other government agencies have been handling things to date.

Our daily new-cases totals were reaching around the 150 mark, and while we did record 173 new cases earlier this week on Monday, we also had a higher number of tests carried out on that day as well.

So our new totals, as of 8am this morning, we have recorded 2118 positive cases to date, with 1396 recovered and 722 currently active cases.  In addition we also have 977 household contacts in quarantine.  These are the ones testing negative but in quarantine.  Remember if you are one of the recovered COVID cases you qualify for a Green Freedom Pass.  Contact your Puna to get yours so that you will no longer need to get tested.

Also there is the purple Essential Worker Pass for those that are in quarantine but test negative, you can get one of these passes to allow you to go to work or feed your animals. You can make an application online via web link on the Cook Islands COVID-19 website.

Or, if you need more information or would prefer a manual application, you can contact Emergency Management Cook Islands, who are based at the Office of the Prime Minister.

All applications for the Essential Worker Pass will be processed by EMCI and approved applications will be sent directly to the applicant.

EMCI will also organise seven days’ worth of RAT tests to go with the essential worker pass.

But a reminder that the worker pass only allows you go to work not to go out and about.  There are certain conditions that need to be met. So lets not abuse this pass.

At this stage, we are tracking a lot better than other countries especially New Zealand.  In NZ they have recorded 3.5 hospitalisations for every 1000 covid cases.  We have already reached 2000 cases with no hospitalisations.  These are remarkable numbers.  We are not out of the woods yet and we could still expect some hospitalisations but I would have to say that our vaccination program has really protected us from some of worse outcomes we are seeing on other countries.  So well done to everyone.

If our daily new case numbers continue as they have over the past 10 days, it may well be that we have already reached or are about to reach the peak of infections on Rarotonga, and should soon see a decline in the number of new cases recorded each day.

It will be then that we can turn our attention more closely towards Aitutaki, where they are yet to experience widespread transmission, and then the rest of the Pa Enua.

As we continue to move forward in our handling of this outbreak, I would like to note the growing number of cases in the community that have recovered. A reminder that there is no need for any of you to re-enter isolation or quarantine at any stage, or to be re-tested for COVID-19 again.

A new important change that we are making with regard to household contacts is that if they have completed seven days of quarantine and continue to test negative, they will not be required to repeat a further seven days of quarantine if someone else in their household tests positive during their original seven-day quarantine period. This change will be in effect from next week on Monday, April 4.

We are also now asking those in seven-day quarantine to self-test themselves and their household for COVID on days three and seven.  Test kits for your household will be made available by TMO to those households.  TMO will show one person in your house how to do this testing, and the Public Health Nurse will call in to record the results and dispose of the waste from any positive cases that may occur.

This change is being made to help alleviate current pressures on our TMO workforce, as well as to encourage households to take responsibility for their own COVID healthcare.

Now, to further changes.

As of today we have increased the number of people permitted to gather at outdoor events from 50 to 100. The maximum limit of 50 people for indoor settings is still in place however and will next be reviewed two weeks from now.

The restriction on passenger travel to the Pa Enua outside of Aitutaki has also been extended today, and will also be reviewed two weeks from now.  One thing we are discussing now is to allow green card holders to be able to travel to the Pa Enua because they are not infectious and are not a risk of being a carrier of the virus. Hopefully we can put this into practice next week.

On to some good news, contact sport has been reinstated as of today, with the proviso that players return a negative RAT result on the day – and of course if you are a green card holder then you don’t need to test.  I know some sports codes are delaying the resumption of competition until after we have peaked.  This is a idea as we do have a large number of people in isolation so waiting for a week or two is good thinking.  We have also received some push back on the charging of RAT tests for players.  This can become an expensive exercise for team sports in particular.  I have asked my team to review this and come up with a better solution by next week. 

Also as of today we are also now putting our CookSafe QR card contact tracing system into hibernation and will no longer require people to tag in at businesses and other organisations, or for these organisations to continue to have CookSafe card scanners in place.

There are some new changes that the New Zealand government has put in place for travellers going to NZ.  From April 8 the New Zealand government will be requiring all travellers going to NZ to self-test themselves for COVID and report the results on days 0 and 3 following their arrival.

Free RAT tests will be provided by the New Zealand government to allow you to test yourself on your arrival. 

Everything else remains the same, we don’t need to test before your flight to NZ and all other quarantine-free travel arrangements between New Zealand and the Cook Islands remain in place.

We are now another week closer to allowing visiting Australian passport holders to enter the Cook Islands – this will happen from April 12, with all other travellers permitted entry from May 1.

Visitors will still be required to be fully vaccinated before travelling here, but as of May 1 we will be waiving the vaccination requirement for all travellers aged 16 years and under.

A negative COVID-19 test – either RAT or PCR – will also continue to be required for all travellers to the Cook Islands, although from May 1 we will be extending the pre-departure test period for RAT tests from 24 hours to 48 hours, to allow more flexibility especially for transit passengers when travelling.

At the same time we will be updating our air border regulations so that pre-departure Covid tests for travellers to the Cook Islands can be taken anywhere, not just in New Zealand, allowing travellers from Australia or other countries to travel direct to the Cook Islands as long as they meet all other requirements.

OK, that’s all I have for you right now – I know it’s a lot to take in, but as I said, further details and information on everything I have talked about here today will soon be available on the relevant websites and Facebook pages.

Stay safe everyone, keep up the good work, have a great weekend and may God continue to bless us all.

Kia orana tatou katoatoa, e kia manuia.

Hon Mark Brown 
Prime Minister