5 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: Cooks PM says well-being over economic gains

8:45 am on 5 March 2020

The Cook Islands government won't compromise the well-being of its people for economic gains, says prime minister Henry Puna.

The prime minister of the Cook Islands, Henry Puna.

The prime minister of the Cook Islands, Henry Puna. Photo: RNZ / Jamie Tahana

Mr Puna's comments come after his government cancelled all 11 cruise ships to the outer islands over the next two months, due to the "fragile health system" in the pa enua.

The Cook Islands News reports the cancellation of a cruise ship visit to Aitutaki this week would cost the island at least $US132,000 in direct tourist spending.

Mr Puna said a nationwide response to the worldwide spread of conronvirus was now required.

The director of destination development at Cook Islands Tourism said the agency understood the need to implement these temporary restrictions regarding cruise ship visits to the pa enua.

Last week, the government also announced that anyone travelling from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Italy and Iran in the last 14 days will be denied entry into the country.

Travellers from China are already banned.

The Cook Islands News said Mr Puna was asked why the country was not also banning travellers from Australia and New Zealand, where more recent coronavirus cases have been recorded.

Health Secretary Dr Josephine Aumea Herman said they considered the capability of the health systems in the countries affected by the pandemic before deciding on the travel restrictions.

Mr Puna added there was "no racist overtone as alleged by some people on social media".

"It's everything to do with what is best for this little paradise."

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