1 March 2020
The Prime Minister Hon. Henry Puna has endorsed the recommendations of the National Health Emergency Taskforce (NHET) to cancel all cruise ship visits to the Pa Enua over the next two months.
The NHET reviewed the outcome of discussions held in Aitutaki between the Prime Minister and members of his delegation with the Island Government and community. This was regarding concerns about cruise ships and the risk of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). While the risk assessment of the particular ship involved suggested low public health risk, the NHET acknowledged the community’s concerns, as well as fragile health systems, infrastructure and vulnerable populations in the Pa Enua.
Te Marae Ora Cook Islands Ministry of Health (TMO) officials conduct a robust risk assessment process for every cruise ship prior to their arrival. A Maritime Declaration of Health (MDH) is the form used to ensure compliance with Article 37 of the World Health Organisation International Health Regulations 2005. This includes specific enquiries between TMO public health staff and the ship medical doctors. Recently, cruise ships have introduced questionnaires specifically designed to screen passengers for COVID-19.
“Important in the risk assessment is the MDH which provides details of the ship and sanitation certificate, passengers and crew information, previous ports visited, and health questions regarding any condition that poses a public health risk,” says Secretary of Health, Dr Herman.
“Protecting the health of the Cook Islands population is the priority for TMO.”