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National response to 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak

To date, at least 7,800 confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV have been reported globally, with 99% in China, including 170 deaths. All of the cities in China’s Hubei province are in lockdown to prevent spread. Outside of China, there are 105 cases in 15 different countries. Three countries report human-to-human transmission (Vietnam, Germany, Japan). There are no cases in New Zealand and French Polynesia. Australia has reported seven cases.

The World Health Organization risk assessment of 2019-nCoV remains unchanged from 22 January 2020: China: very high, Western Pacific Region: high, Global: high.

On 22 January 2020, Te Marae Ora activated the national health emergency response and Incident Management System (IMS), in response to the 2019-nCoV outbreak. The IMS consists of the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) at Rarotonga Hospital and Event Surveillance and Response (ESR) room at Public Health, Tupapa.

The National Health Emergency Taskforce (NHET) is active and met twice this week to discuss the national response to 2019-nCoV. The NHET membership includes a range of government and non-government emergency response and border control stakeholders.

This is a rapidly evolving situation and today, Cabinet held a special meeting to consider the recommendations of the NHET, regarding strategies to prevent and minimise the impact of 2019-nCoV on the Cook Islands population.

Cabinet has approved a revised travel advisory for the Cook Islands:

  1. All persons who have been in China over the past 30 days, and who wish to travel to the Cook Islands, should stay in self-quarantine* for 14 days prior. Additionally, such persons should not travel to the Cook Islands if they have a fever and cough.
  2. Citizens and residents of the Cook Islands should avoid non-essential travel to China. Should they choose to travel to China, the conditions to recommendation i (above) will apply.
  3. All international travel for all Cook Islands government employees travelling on official business, must be vetted by Te Marae Ora.
  •  * Quarantine: this means stay at home and avoid social gatherings and events where you may come in contact with others. Do not go to work, school, university, church, social or sports activities, supermarkets and food venues such as restaurants and cafes.

All arriving passengers will be expected to accurately complete the standard Cook Islands Passenger Arrival Card, which includes a question on countries travelled in the past 40 days. All arriving passengers will receive written information regarding 2019-nCoV, symptoms and signs, infection control measures, and contact details for health services should this be required. Standard pratique processes remain in place for both air and sea vessels.

For those travelling overseas, please take all practical measures to avoid close contact with people with flu-like illnesses, wash your hands regularly, cover your coughs and sneezes, and avoid contact with animals including visiting animal markets.

Te Marae Ora strongly recommends travellers avoid all non-essential and non-urgent travel to cities and areas where 2019-nCoV infection has been reported.

Those travelling overseas should also prepare for travel delays on arrival at selected airports as some countries have implemented health screening processes. This may include passenger temperature checks and requests for passengers to complete a symptom questionnaire. Travellers with signs and symptoms of illness (fever, cough, or difficulty breathing) may be required to undergo additional health assessment

In addition to a health protection officer, Te Marae Ora will provide a public health nurse at Rarotonga airport for all international arrivals. The mobile health bus will be based at Rarotonga airport, on standby, should an ill traveller require medical attention.

A special ‘flu’ clinic will be established at Blackrock Clinic from next week and will open from 8am to 2pm Monday to Friday. This clinic will receive all patients with coughs, fevers and difficulty breathing. This is important to protect patients at Rarotonga hospital and Tupapa community clinic.

The public is advised to call ahead prior to visiting the ‘flu’ clinic to arrange an appointment to see the doctor and/or nurse. This will assist in minimising the spread of germs while patients are in the waiting room.

The NHET through Te Marae Ora is actively monitoring and responding to 2019-nCoV.

Contact details: ‘Coughs and Colds’ Flu clinic – 29667