The first infection in the island nation has been detected in a 10-year-old boy who recently returned in a repatriation flight with 176 others and is under quarantine, prime minister Mark Brown said in a statement, adding that the country has strong checks in place.
The other passengers in the flight have tested negative for Covid.
“We have been preparing ourselves for the time we reopen our borders. Our testing regimes have shown the value of that preparation by catching this case at the border,” Mr Brown said.
“I want to reiterate that for many months we have been planning for how we handle the border reopening and dealing with any potential coronavirus threats, I further reiterate the importance for all eligible members of our population to be vaccinated, to give us that added layer of protection against serious illness and possible death,” he added, according to NZ Herald.
The boy is believed to have returned from New Zealand, a country that the Cook Islands was going to open borders to soon as it intended to resume tourism, an industry the country’s economy depends on.
The new rules are set to come into effect from 14 January and were set to allow quarantine-free travel between the two nations. However, it isn’t clear whether the government will review its decision now.
While many pacific island nations, including Fiji, French Polynesia and Marshall Islands have recorded Covid cases, the Cook Islands had escaped coronavirus for nearly two years by shutting down its borders completely.
The island nation has a population of just 17,000 and has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with 96 per cent people fully jabbed.