COVID-19 free Kingdom remains closed with Exceptions for New Zealand
The Kingdom of the Cook Island Prime Minister Henry Puna has declared the Cook Islands “a COVID-19 free zone”, however the county remains in Code Yellow for the time being. Even though the virus has not presented itself, all have been asked to continue to maintain good hygiene and practice physical and social distancing to prevent transmission. For more information visit www.covid19.gov.ck
The CookSafe contact tracing pilot which launched on the 19th June will provide important insights to strengthen the Cook Islands COVID-19 contact tracing processes and protocols, says Secretary of Health, Dr Josephine Aumea Herman. CookSafe will complement the World Health Organisation developed Go.Data software disease outbreak investigation tool for case and contact management that Te Marae Ora is launching next week. “Our priority is to keep our residents and visitors safe,” says Dr Herman.
While COVID-19 is the focus of our efforts, these systems will apply to future public health threats including dengue. This is an important learning opportunity as we begin reopening to the outside world.
The CookSafe pilot is a collaborative initiative between Government and the Private Sector Taskforce with Te Marae Ora leading.
On border settings, work on the creation of a ‘safe travel zone’ between the Cook Islands and New Zealand has been undertaken at multiple levels within both settings for a number of weeks, noting considerations are complex, multifaceted and reach across all areas of Government. Said Minister Brown,
“It was a very positive discussion with Minister Peters with consensus on the primacy of our health imperatives and preserving the hard-won gains New Zealand and the Cook Islands have made in going early and going hard to eliminate and mitigate against the spread of COVID-19. We agreed it necessary to remain vigilant and ensure robust mitigation measures against risks, including border settings, given the virus continued growth elsewhere in the world. At the same time, however, we committed to continuing to prioritize progression of border settings easement between ourselves given we’ve both for some time now been safe havens from COVID-19 and New Zealand’s current border settings are having a significant impact and implications on the Cook Islands health, social and economic circumstances.”
Minister Brown reiterated prior requests from the Cook Islands for the removal of quarantine requirements on arrival into New Zealand for travelers from the Cook Islands and relaxing of New Zealand’s outwards travel advisory for travel to the Cook Islands. Minister Peters has tasked his officials to explore the potential for removal of the 14 day supervised quarantine for certain categories of travelers from the Cook Islands to New Zealand such as accompanying family members for health referrals; members of the judiciary; medical personnel and critical infrastructure personnel.
The Cook Islands also expressed its desire to see the early resumption of tourists from New Zealand, noting the Cook Islands’ current border settings had a pre-requisite of 30 days prior residence in New Zealand for entry into the Cook Islands. “We are grateful for New Zealand’s sustained engagement and consideration of the Cook Islands since February on New Zealand’s border settings and we look forward to continued collaboration in the coming weeks. In addition to maintaining the pre-requisite of 30 days, prior residence in New Zealand for entry into the Cook Islands through to at least September, the Cook Islands will continue to limit air access to the Cook Islands via Auckland only through to December.
We consider these further commitments critical to preserving and protecting a shared travel bubble with New Zealand.” Border settings and critical preparedness and response work continue apace to ensure the establishment of requisite levels of mutual trust and confidence in border control settings and public health measures through surveillance and testing regimes, including robust contact tracing systems. Minister Peters noted NZ continues to take very seriously their duty to minimize and mitigate against the risk of introducing COVID-19 to the Pacific and the Cook Islands. This sentiment was supported by Minister Brown, who further noted that “This duty of care rests on both the Cook Islands and New Zealand. It requires of senior officials careful and detailed consideration of all risks associated with a potential ‘safe travel zone’ that therefore necessitates close collaboration and identification of support required to strengthen our already existing processes in