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19 Apr 2020 | 09:29 AM UTC

Cook Islands: Government declares country COVID-19 free and begins lifting restrictions April 18 /update 2

Authorities declare Cook Islands COVID-19 free and begin lifting restrictions on April 18; abide by government directives



On Saturday, April 18, Prime Minister Henry Puna announced that the country was free of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) after hundreds of tests came back negative. The announcement heralds an easing of Code Yellow measures, enabling schools to reopen on Monday, April 20, lifting domestic travel restrictions to and from Pa Enua, and allowing the resumption of non-contact sports and church services. Cafes and restaurants may also resume business as long as they abide by social distancing measures; the sale of alcohol is currently under review.

The Cook Islands Ministry of Health declared that, as of Thursday, February 27, individuals having traveled from or through 16 designated countries or territories in the 14 days prior to scheduled arrival in the Cook Islands will be denied entry in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The affected countries and territories include: China, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Italy, and Iran. The entry ban is due to be reviewed weekly. The Ministry of Health also advised Cook Islanders and residents against nonessential travel to the aforementioned areas.

As of Sunday, April 19, officials have not confirmed any cases of COVID-19 on the Cook Islands. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected in the near term.


The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On February 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the risk of spread and the risk of impact of the virus is "'very high' at global level."

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.


Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:

• Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.

• When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.

• If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.