COVID-19 pandemic in the Cook Islands
|COVID-19 pandemic in the Cook Islands|
The COVID-19 pandemic in the Cook Islands is part of the ongoing worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). As of 26 August 2021, the Cook Islands has not detected any active cases of SARS-CoV-2 and remains 'COVID-free'. On the 24 August 2021, the Cook Islands completed its COVID-19 vaccination program with 96.7 percent of eligible population (16+) fully vaccinated.
On 12 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that a novel coronavirus was the cause of a respiratory illness in a cluster of people in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, which was reported to the WHO on 31 December 2019.
The pandemic has resulted in mixed experiences in the Cook Islands, with some residents reporting it to have been a 'welcome respite' from normally high-levels of international tourism. Whilst economically the sudden decrease in tourism has had a significant effect economically on businesses and Government revenue.
As a precautionary measure, flights from destinations other than New Zealand were cancelled in mid-March 2020, and non-essential surgeries cancelled. On 26 March, Prime Minister Henry Puna announced that 'Code Yellow' measures would be in place in the islands, by which public gatherings are restricted. On 15 August, the Government has temporarily closed its air borders to any travellers in response to the re-emerging of COVID-19 cases in Auckland, New Zealand.
In early May 2021, the New Zealand and Cook Islands governments agreed to establish a travel bubble between the two territories from 17 May. Travelers have to be present for at least 14 days in either NZ or the Cook Islands in order to participate in the travel bubble.
On 13 June, Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown and Cook Islands Tourism chief executive Halatoa Fua confirmed that the Cook Islands government and tourism industry were exploring the possibility of opening a travel bubble with Australia.
On 18 June 2021, Radio New Zealand and Stuff reported that Cook Islands businesses were experiencing a boom as a result of the relaxation of travel restrictions but that the islands were still experiencing a labour shortage.
On 17 August 2021, the Cook Islands moved to Alert Level 2 following a New Zealand COVID-19 outbreak in Auckland. This is the first time the Alert Level has been raised from Level 1 since the strengthened COVID-19 response system was introduced on 27 April 2021. Within the first 5 days of following the Alert Level being raised 1788 PCR swabs for COVID-19 tests were processed targeting all passengers who arrived in the Cook Islands between 2-16 August 2021. As of 23 August 2021, all tests have been negative. Flights from New Zealand are currently operating as cargo only flights.
On 24 August 2021, the Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health completed its COVID-19 national vaccination programme, with 96.7% of the eligible population, people aged 16 years or older, fully vaccinated. The doses were the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty. The government is planning a further operation to vaccinate 12-15 year olds.
- No active SARS-COV-2 virus has ever been detected in the Cook Islands. One non-infectious historic case tested positive for viral fragments after travelling to the Cook Islands following release from quarantine in New Zealand.
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