One Suspected Omicron Case Gets Cook Islands Added to Hong Kong’s List of High-Risk Countries

By Keng Onn Wong
Keng Onn Wong
Keng Onn Wong
Keng Onn Wong is a writer based in Singapore.
December 6, 2021 Updated: December 6, 2021

In less than a week, Hong Kong authorities added 12 more countries to its list of high-risk places, including Cook Islands, a small South Pacific country that announced its first ever case of COVID-19.

In a statement released on Dec. 3, Prime Minister Mark Brown announced Cook Islands, a nation of about 17,600 people, had detected its first case of COVID-19 in an inbound, repatriation flight. The case was a 10-year-old child who tested a “weak positive” on Dec. 2.

Neither the child nor his family showed any symptoms. They were all isolated in a quarantine facility. The remaining passengers all tested negative.

In a subsequent address to Parliament (pdf), Brown said the child had previously tested negative in a pre-departure test taken in New Zealand on Nov. 30.

He said, “The positive result came from a PCR test analyzed at the Rarotonga hospital—with reported CT values of 36 and 40—the medical professionals are assuming this is an early infection.”

Cook Islands had closed its borders during the pandemic but planned to reopen them on Jan. 13, 2022. It had one of the highest global vaccination rates with 96 percent of its population above age 12 fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine.

On Dec. 5, Hong Kong authorities announced Cook Islands, Chile, Luxembourg, and Romania would be added to its highest-risk Group A specified places effective Dec. 8.

This decision was made “after Omicron cases were detected in these places.”

According to Reuters, Chilean and Romanian health authorities announced, on Dec. 4, their first cases of the Omicron variant—one case in Chile, and two cases in Romania. Luxembourg also reported one case on the same day, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

People who stayed in Group A places within the past 21 days will be denied entry into Hong Kong unless they are Hong Kong residents.

Residents can only return home if they are fully vaccinated and hold a recognized vaccination record. On arrival, they have to be quarantined in designated hotels for 21 days, and tested six times during their quarantine. On the 26th day after their arrival, they have to be tested a seventh time.

Returning residents would also have to arrange and bear the cost of their hotel quarantine.

Prior to this announcement, Hong Kong authorities had already added Mexico to the high-risk list on Dec. 4; Singapore and Iceland on Dec. 3; and Finland, Ghana, South Korea, Norway, and Saudi Arabia on Dec. 2.

Over the period from Dec. 2 to Dec. 5, Hong Kong had added 12 more countries to its high-risk Group A category due to Omicron, in addition to 13 other countries as previously reported by The Epoch Times.

This zero-COVID policy adopted by Hong Kong is similar to China’s zero-tolerance stance toward coronavirus infections. According to a government spokesman, most residents look forward to the reopening of the border with the mainland.

In a press release on Dec. 5, Cook Islands’ Secretary of Health Bob Williams announced that the 10-year-old child had tested negative.

“Today’s ‘negative’ result is that [otherwise] information. It means we did NOT detect any virus in the mucus sample we took from the boy. This is good news.”

He said, “The most likely explanation is that the boy was exposed to the virus in the past.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

Keng Onn Wong is a writer based in Singapore.