17 March 2020
Questions and Answers
Cook Islands Response to Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
How is the Cook Islands responding?
The Cook Islands emergency response plan to COVID-19 (Plan) is a nationwide effort to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the health, social and economic status of the Cook Islands population.
Specific interventions include:
- Optimising good hand hygiene practices and cough etiquette in schools, workplaces, and all public places
- Encouraging social distancing practices
- Restricting borders
What are social distancing practices?
Social distancing practices, including minimising close contact with other people, can stop or slow the spread of infectious diseases such as the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
As a result, the Ministry of Health is strongly discouraging:
- The gathering of groups of more than 50 people
- Large gatherings involving singing, sporting/church/cultural events
- Gatherings at indoor venues where spacing between people or more than 1 meter cannot be accomplished.
How is travel and shipping affected?
As of 16 March 2020, anyone intending to enter Rarotonga from any country with the exception of New Zealand is required to self-quarantine for 14 days in New Zealand. This includes Cook Islanders returning from countries other than New Zealand. This enhanced border measure will be in place until 18 April 2020 and is subject to weekly review.
Flights from French Polynesia, Australia and the United States are postponed until 18 April 2020 and are also subject to weekly review.
A temporary ban on all cruise ships, pleasure crafts and yachts entering Cook Islands waters will be effective from 16 March 2020 and at this stage through to 30 June 2020, subject to weekly review.
Cargo boats and planes carrying cargo will still be able to enter our ports and the supply chain of products will not be affected.
Can I travel overseas?
The Cook Islands government is encouraging Cook Islanders to avoid all non-essential travel overseas. Leading by example, Government employees have canceled all international travel duty, effective Monday 16 March, unless an exemption is provided on the advice of Te Marae Ora Cook Islands Ministry of Health.
Can I fly to the Pa Enua (Outer Islands)?
The government has added another layer of protection to the Pa Enua (including Aitutaki) of the Cook Islands, by restricting their borders effective 21 March 2020.
Thereafter, there will be a voluntary 14-day supervised quarantine for anyone wishing to travel to the Pa Enua.
What can people do at home?
At home, health officials are asking people to wash their hands regularly, avoid touching your face, handshaking and kissing, regularly disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, bathrooms, and kitchens, increase ventilation in all rooms, and avoid family outings when possible.
What can we do in the workplace?
In the workplace, both employers and employees are being asked to stay at home if they display symptoms associated with COVID-19, defer meetings and gatherings or hold meetings outside, avoid shaking hands, avoid touching your face, practise proper hand hygiene and cough etiquette, and avoid sharing drink and food.
How are schools affected?
School holidays have been brought forward in Rarotonga, and all children will be sent home for two weeks as of 20 March 2020.
Schools on the outer islands (including Aitutaki) will continue as usual.
Daycares and nurseries have also begun to make changes and officials urge parents to contact their caregivers for further details.
Who can I contact for more information?
For more information about COVID-19, please visit Te Marae Ora Cook Islands Ministry of Health website at: https://www.health.gov.ck/
Alternatively, contact the Healthline on 29 667.
To view the Cook Islands Emergency Response Plan to COVID-19, go to: https://www.health.gov.ck/wpcontent/uploads/2020/03/CookIslandsEmergencyResponsePlanCOVID19_Mar2020.pdf