Cook Islands reports first Covid case amid fears of ‘silent transmission’

One of the last remaining countries without Covid-19the small Pacific nation of Cook Islandshas reported its first case of the virus.

Prime minister Mark Brown said the first case arrived on an international flight from New Zealand on 10 2月.

“While she was asymptomatic, she returned a positive result in just a few hours later. The case been issued an Isolation Order. The case is travelling with two others, and they will all remain in isolation until they no longer test positive for Covid-19,” Brown said on Monday.

The prime minister warned on the weekend there could be “silent transmission” in the country after another traveller tested positive for Covid-19 upon their return to New Zealand, having travelled through the Cook Islands from 31 January to 8 2月.

“It is likely that the person who tested positive was infectious while here and further likely that the virus is in our community,” the prime minister said of that case on social media on Saturday.

Hundreds of people came forward for testing at drive-through sites on Tuesday in an effort to trace any possible community transmission. Te Marae Ora, the Cook Islands Ministry of Health, confirmed that 31 potential close contacts had tested negative.

The Cook Islands – a popular holiday destination with a population of about 18,000 people – has kicked into full precautionary measures which include grounding outer island flights to contain any possible transmission in Rarotonga, the main island.

Despite this being the first case, there is no sense of panic, according to Rashneel Kumar, editor of the national newspaper, Cook Islands News.

“People are calm and collected. Maybe if this case arrived sooner it would have been different. But people have been prepared and practising social distance, wearing masks and taking precautionary measures. It also helps that vaccination coverage is very high.”

The vaccination coverage in the Cook Islands is 96% of the eligible population 12 years and over, according to Te Marae Ora. The positive case comes a week after vaccines for five-11-year-olds were rolled out, and a week after reopening of all schools.

Kumar told the Guardian that some parents expressed concern about schools being open, while others were comfortable to keep their children in school while they wait for test results.