Cook Islands declared a "COVID-19 Free Zone"
PRESS RELEASE, 16 April 2020
With no recorded cases of COVID-19 and all outstanding tests returned as negative, Prime Minister Henry Puna has declared the Cook Islands "a COVID 19 free zone".
While the country will remain in Code Yellow until further notice, the PM announced a handful of restrictions have been lifted for Rarotonga and the Pa Enua.
Commencing 20 April 2020, schools nationwide will re-open and church services can begin again from Saturday (18th April). However, students and churchgoers will continue to be asked to practice physical distancing.
Domestic travel regulations that placed restrictions on travel to and from the Pa Enua will also be lifted as of 20 April 2020, allowing free movement in the country and Pa Enua residents previously stranded in Rarotonga to return home.
Restrictions on social gatherings of more than ten people will remain in place, however exemptions will now be available from Te Marae Ora Cook Islands Ministry of Health on a case by case basis. Restaurants and cafes will also be permitted to open, but with physical distancing measures in place.
A Ministerial Order restricting the retail sale of alcohol is under review.
"We welcome this good news but must remain cautious knowing that COVID-19 continues to circulate outside our borders," PM Puna said.
Along with the easing of some restrictions, the remainder will remain in place until further notice.
Individuals are asked to continue physical distancing, with the practices becoming "the new norm" until a vaccine for the virus is developed. Contact sports will continue to be avoided due to the limited medivac facilities and international flights but non-contact sports will resume as normal.
Te Marae Ora also continues to urge everyone to maintain good hygiene practices such as regular handwashing and covering coughs and sneezes.
Additionally, government will be keeping in place supervised quarantine procedures and border control measures such as restrictions on international flights. Health officials will continue testing for the virus, contact tracing processes, and maintain surveillance of the population for any evidence of the virus.
To date, a total of 872 tests have been carried out by Te Marae Ora. 867 of these have been returned negative. We are awaiting results for the remaining 5 tests.
"It's incredibly important we all remain vigilant even though we are COVID-19 free," said PM Puna.
"As we move forward, we will outline a more comprehensive package of responses that will guide us through the reset and adaptive changes that must take place within our economy, our services and society."
The Prime Minister said credit must be given to health workers and everyone involved in executing the national response to the pandemic.
"To our Punas, businesses, churches, our traditional leaders, non-government organisations, Parliament, our Government and health officials, you are our modern-day heroes," he said.
"I am proud of your courage and dedication. You have fought for our most vulnerable people, our elderly and our children."
For further information on the new measures, please visit www.covid19.gov.ck