A short time ago, Prime Minister Mark Brown addressed the nation. Here is his address:
Kia orana tatou katoatoa,
Here is today’s COVID-19 update for Tuesday, March 15.
As we have expected, our case numbers are continuing to rise, and yesterday we had 86 people test positive for COVID-19.
This means that so far we have had 476 COVID cases as of today, with 132 cases recovered and released from isolation, and 344 cases still active.
The latest advice I have been given from our health ministry Te Marae Ora suggests that our daily case totals will continue to rise, and it is likely that we will soon be seeing upwards of 100 new cases a day, if not more.
I know that the thought of having this number of new COVID cases a day will seem frightening to some, but there is another number that we should also be keeping in mind – and that number is currently zero.
Out of the almost 500 cases we have recorded so far, we still have yet to see any of our people hospitalised with this virus, and that to me is the most encouraging statistic of all.
All 476 cases have experienced either mild symptoms only or no symptoms at all – no one in hospital.
We have not yet reached the peak of the outbreak, but we can be encouraged that our vaccination programme is working for us.
However, as the virus spreads, it is very likely that we will see some of our people hospitalised or needing medical treatment, although we pray that it does not come to that.
To be where we are now, with almost 500 cases but zero hospitalisations is a great achievement, but we also need to remain vigilant and keep ourselves prepared for whatever lies ahead.
As the number of people testing positive and entering isolation continues to rise, so too does the number of household contacts – the close family members and housemates of our positive cases, who are also required to undergo seven days of quarantine.
So in addition to our 344 active cases in isolation, as of 11am this morning we also have 508 household contacts in quarantine – that’s 852 people altogether.
And while the seven-day quarantine period for household contacts of positive cases remains a necessary precaution, as the number of people being required to stay home continues to increase there will be some impacts, not only on private businesses but also in the public services as well.
So I want you to know that we are looking into ways in which we might be able to alleviate these pressures, especially with respect to those who are considered essential and frontline workers.
In the meantime, let us all continue to observe all of those precautions and health and safety measures that we know make a difference in slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
So wear your mask, maintain physical distancing, tag in with your CookSafe card and keep up those good hygiene habits.
Look out for the more vulnerable among us, check that they are doing alright, and if you haven’t yet been vaccinated or you still need to get your booster shot, please consider doing so.
As an early heads up, our vaccination team will be in action again on Rarotonga not this weekend but the next, on Saturday March 26.
They will be offering either first or second doses to those aged five years old and over, as well as booster doses to those aged 18 plus – just get yourself and your children to the Nikao Social Centre between 8am and 4pm and our capable TMO staff will take it from there.
In other news, you may have already heard today that New Zealand will be opening to Australians from the 12th of April, and expect to open to the rest of the world from the 1st of May.
So we can expect that our own border entry requirements will also change to allow visitors from these countries on those dates as well.
I know that this will be welcome news for those in our tourism industry, who have done it tough over the past two years.
We can now plan with certainty across our different stakeholders, and everyone can start looking forward to getting our businesses, our market vendors, our growers, our fishermen and others all back up and running to supply our markets as our country gets back into business.
Stay safe, and may God continue to bless us all.
Kia orana e kia toa.
Hon Mark Brown