A short time ago, Prime Minister Mark Brown addressed the nation. Here is his address:
Kia orana tatou katoatoa,
As we head into the long Easter weekend, I am very pleased to be able to tell you that the outbreak of Omicron on Rarotonga has now reached its peak.
Current advice from Te Marae Ora is that we will now start to see our daily new case numbers gradually decreasing, although there may still be occasional mini outbreaks amongst households who have so far managed to avoid Omicron altogether.
But the main thing that we can all appreciate from this outbreak – is the total absence of any hospitalisations or even COVID cases with serious symptoms – something we can all be very thankful for.
This lack of serious cases can be attributed to our extremely high vaccination rates, and again we should congratulate ourselves on a job well done.
That said, please remember that the virus is still circulating, so it is still important to keep up things like mask-wearing and good basic hygiene habits.
And I think we should also continue to be grateful to our families members, our friends who continue to keep a close eye on the more vulnerable among us, and who visit isolated homes and drop off food and essentials. That Kia Orana spirit goes a long way to helping people out.
In terms of our national health response, we will now be turning our attention more fully towards Aitutaki and the rest of the Pa Enua.
Aitutaki has reached a total of 102 cases as at 8am this morning, with 47 recovered and 55 currently active.
We now also have three cases on Tongareva. They was most likely caught the virus that we have subsequently discovered from the crew of the Lady Moana when cargo was dropped off last week.
While no one disembarked the vessel, the requirements for crew to maintain non-contact distance from locals appears not to have been adhered to on this occasion, and surveillance testing of all those who were on the wharf confirmed the positive cases yesterday morning.
This of course means that Omicron has made its way to Tongareva earlier than we would have liked, but Te Marae Ora is currently mobilising support and resources for the island in the coming days and our people there are also well-protected due to their high vaccination rate. While Tingareva may be the first of the Pa Enua aside from Aitutaki to get the virus – the good news is, they will also be the first to recover from the virus and get back to normal.
Yesterday TMO also sent a team to Atiu – including our Secretary of Health Bob Williams – who will help ready the community there for the reopening of their domestic border on Monday, April 18.
And with travel to the Northern Group islands of Manihiki, Rakahanga and Tongareva resuming on April 25 and travel to Pukapuka, Mitiaro, Mauke and Mangaia likely to resume on May 1, our communities on each of these islands can also expect similar support and assistance over the coming weeks.
Back here in Rarotonga, we have recorded a total of 3684 cases to date, with 3135 recovered and 549 still active and currently in seven-day isolation.
Last week that figure of active cases was much higher. So that is a very encouraging to see the drop, indicating that we are well on our way to recovering from Omicron here in Rarotonga.
On the international front Cabinet today has agreed that from 1st May travellers to the Cook Islands will no longer need to undergo a pre-departure RAT or PCR test in Auckland.
Australia have already announced they will remove this as a requirement of entry to their country from April 18, and many other countries around the world have already started to do away with pre-departure testing. I am sure that this will be received well received by our tourism industry.
Recently Air New Zealand announced that it will be removing the vaccination proof for travel on its international flights from 1st May. Our government will be looking at this closely in the coming weeks but for now our requirement for vaccinated arrivals over the age of 16 still stands.
OK, that’s all I have for you today, but as our restrictions here on Rarotonga start to ease even further and our focus starts turning to the Pa Enua, your Government will continually be looking to adapt to the changing situation to manage our lives better. This may mean that the possible replacement of mandatory 7 day isolation with a more voluntary system for a shorter period.
That’s just some food for thought right now, but in the meantime lets us remember that Easter is the time to commemorate the sacrifice of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ for all our sins and to celebrate his rising on the third day as his promise to us of everlasting life. So I would like to wish everyone a safe and happy Easter, and may God continue to bless us all.
Kia orana tatou katoatoa, e kia manuia.
Hon. Mark Brown