(Reuters) – The Cook Islands, a small nation in the South Pacific that has not experienced Covid-19 in its community, are ready for its first coronavirus infections after an infected traveler visited, Prime Minister Mark Brown said Sunday.
The traveler from New Zealand spent eight days in the community and tested positive for Omicron when he returned home last week, Brown said in a video posted on the government’s Facebook page.
“It’s likely that the person … was contagious while he was here and further likely that the virus is in our community,” he said.
“It may be that there is ‘silent transmission’ where our high vaccination rate is so protective that people are getting Covid, but so mild that they are not aware they have it.”
Official data show that 99.6% of the island nation’s approximately 17,000 people aged 12 and over are double-vaccinated, and 70% of those eligible have received their booster shots.
The Cook Islands resumed quarantine-free travel with New Zealand a month ago, after shutting themselves off from the world when the pandemic hit in early 2020.
In December, the country reported a case of Covid-19 in a person who was in quarantine after arriving on a return flight and who was not exposed to the community.
“The fact that we have a high percentage of our people vaccinated will give us significant protection against serious illness,” Brown said.
Top image: Rarotonga, Cook Islands. Credit: Adobe Stock