A short time ago, Prime Minister Mark Brown addressed the nation. Here is his address:
Kia orana tatou katoatoa,
With our Covid-19 numbers continuing to rise here in Rarotonga, I would like to speak to you all today on how our situation is developing and the steps that we are taking to manage this outbreak.
We are expecting a rise in our case numbers, as we have seen in every country that has Omicron circulating.
As of this moment, we have a total of 71 positive cases identified, and I expect we will see more in the coming days.
With Omicron, the key statistic that we need to be concerned with is the hospitalisation rate.
Now that we are more than a fortnight on from our first case, what I am very encouraged by is the fact that of these 71 cases, none of them – not a single one of our people or visitors – have required any hospital treatment, with all of them displaying only mild symptoms of the Covid-19 virus, or even none at all.
If our case numbers continue to rise – as we predict they will – it will be the hospitalisation rate that I will be keeping an eye on, and this will also be the focus of TMO.
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.
Because of our small size as a country, we can do things a lot quicker and more effectively than other countries.
Yesterday, TMO recommended that everyone get a test at the testing sites that are currently open to the public.
What we are doing is an early stocktake of the status of the virus among our people – and because we are small enough, we can test everyone.
So I urge everyone – especially those who have symptoms – to get tested. Large businesses and government departments should be able to do their own RAT tests to determine the status of their staff.
This stocktake will tell us how spread the virus is, and if we need to implement further measures to slow its spread.
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.
We turn our focus to testing – and if you are positive, be prepared for 10 days staying at home until you are cleared.
And so we are asking all of our people who have not yet been tested – and parents, this includes your children of all ages if you feel comfortable in bringing them – to please make your way to one of our testing stations sometime between now and the start of the weekend.
Our drivethrough station at Terevete Park by the Punanga Nui is open from 9am-3pm today, Thursday and Friday, while our new testing station at the Kavera Meeting House is open into the evening as well, from 9am-7pm each day.
We will also be opening another testing station in the Ngatangiia Cook Islands Christian Church grounds tomorrow, and the testing station at the airport will continue to be open during Air Rarotonga operating hours, although a $10 testing fee there still applies.
The opening of these extra testing stations, combined with the workplace testing that we are now conducting across all of our government departments, should make things easier and reduce waiting times for those getting tested.
Further speeding things up, all testing stations will now be using the RAT tests only, with PCR tests held in reserve for following up on any positive RAT results. The recent generous donation from the New Zealand government of a further 20,000 RAT test kits will greatly help in this change of procedure.
Now, to our current numbers – as I said, we have detected a total of 71 positive cases of Covid-19 in the Cook Islands as of 10am today, with 67 of those still in isolation and a further 141 close and household contacts currently under a 10 or seven-day quarantine.
We do currently have 16 children under the age of 15 who have tested positive, as well as two adults over the age of 70. And 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.
Passenger travel to Aitutaki still remains open at this time, pending individual RAT test results, while travel to the rest of the Pa Enua will remain suspended now until 11.59pm on Sunday, March 6.
In addition to this, I have today authorised a new Ministerial Order suspending all forms of contact sport, which will be effective from 11.59pm tonight until 11.59pm on March 6.
Over this same time period, all indoor and outdoor events and social gatherings, whether in a private or public setting, are restricted to a maximum of 50 people unless an exemption has been obtained from the Secretary of Health. However, this order will exclude all churches, restaurants, cafes and bars, assuming all necessary Covid-19 health and safety measures continue to be followed.
So that’s all we have now from me, but I will be providing daily updates each afternoon, and either myself or TMO will continue to provide periodic public updates on our Covid-19 test numbers and results as the situation in our country develops, as well as if any further new positive cases emerge.
May God continue to bless us all.
Kia orana tatou katoatoa, e kia manuia.
Hon Mark Brown