Cook Islands has suspended the travel bubble with New Zealand after NZ officials reported new covid-19 community cases in Auckland.
Four new community cases have been reported by health authorities — including an Auckland nurse — taking the total to five.
The new cases are all linked to yesterday’s first case in Auckland, which has been confirmed as delta variant.
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“While the epidemiological variance and transmission link for the community case in New Zealand is still being investigated, we must act swiftly here to minimise exposure risk for the Cook Islands so we remain safe,” said Prime Minister Mark Brown.
This alert level change will mean that international inwards passenger arrivals for 72 hours through to Thursday have been suspended.
The pause on international arrivals will allow Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health to test arriving passengers from August 11.
This also means domestic travel to the Pa Enua from Rarotonga is suspended until Thursday.
Passengers can return to NZ
Passengers can return to New Zealand from Rarotonga. Passengers from Pa Enua can return back to Rarotonga.
The alert level change and travel bubble suspension was announced after a 58-year-old Devonport man tested positive yesterday in Auckland, New Zealand, after visiting a GP. He was infectious from August 12.
The man, who was not vaccinated, and his wife travelled to Coromandel over the weekend. His wife was fully vaccinated.
He is considered to have become infectious on August 12. There were 23 locations of interest, 10 in Auckland and 13 in Coromandel.
Auckland and Coromandel went into level 4 lockdown for seven days – and the rest of New Zealand for three days – from 11.59pm (NZ time) last night.
While announcing the nationwide alert level change last night, Prime Minister Brown said the Cabinet made the decision based on the information available “at this time, all necessary precautions have been considered”.
“While the epidemiological variance and transmission link for the community case in New Zealand is still being investigated, we must act swiftly here to minimise exposure risk for the Cook Islands so we remain safe,” Brown said.
Cooks Cabinet to meet
“This is a good time to remind ourselves of the need to practice good hygiene measures, and to actively tag in with Cooksafe and Cooksafe+.”
The Cook Islands Cabinet will meet again today to consider new updated information received and next steps.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said last night the positive case could not be confirmed as delta until genome sequencing was confirmed today, but every recent MIQ case had been delta.
“We’ve seen the dire consequences of taking too long to act in other countries, not least our neighbours … the (family) bubble is back,” she said.
Ardern said the delta variant was potentially twice as infectious and more liable to cause severe illness.
“We are one of the last countries in the world to have the delta variant in our community. This has given us the chance to learn from others.”
She said delta was a “game-changer” and there needed to be a rapid response to stop the spread.
“We only get one chance.”
Ardern said physical distancing was even more important given how easily delta can be transmitted – including through the air. There would be a 48-hour window for people to relocate in New Zealand.
Cook Islands News stories are republished by Asia Pacific Report with permission.