The Cook Islands remains closed to tourists, but in the meantime officials and tourism operators are taking measures to ensure a safe and secure reopening of the borders.
Part of their strategy is a simple technology that allows public health officials to quickly and easily trace the movement of anyone who tests positive for the novel coronavirus.
Back in mid-June, the government and a taskforce representing the private sector launched CookSafe, a system designed with support from the team that made codeREADr, a barcode scanning tool with integrated web service.
CookSafe equips public places, such as shops, cafes, restaurants, and fitness centres, with a QR code that patrons can scan using either a card or a wifi-enabled device. The date, time, and location of their visit is promptly transmitted to a database secured by multiple layers of encryption. Only the Cook Islands Ministry of Health has access to this information.
Should anyone in the Cook Islands test positive for COVID-19, public health officials will use the database to promptly contact anyone who might have crossed paths with the carrier. This enables early testing and intervention, ultimately reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus. CookSafe serves as a complement to Go.Data, a software developed by the World Health Organisation that assists contact tracing teams in entering and sharing data related to disease transmission. The tracing system represents a collaboration between the Cook Islands Ministry of Health and the country’s business community.
“CookSafe will be an essential tool in the country’s frontline defences against the coronavirus,” said Fletcher Melvin, a member of the taskforce. “The pilot is a fantastic example of how the private sector and government can come together as one to find solutions to our country’s biggest issues.”
Since the pilot programme was rolled out in June, officials and businesses have had opportunities to refine and perfect their systems, in preparation for the day the tourism industry becomes operational once more.
Visitors will be asked to contribute to protecting the Cook Islands from COVID-19 by registering for CookSafe on the plane through their immigration paperwork, and picking up a CookSafe card at the Tourism Office in Avarua.
In anticipation of welcoming tourists back to the Cook Islands, residents are taking the Cook Islands Promise, a pledge developed jointly by Cook Islands Tourism, the Cook Islands Ministry of Health, and the Office of the Prime Minister, which binds hosts and guests in a mutual commitment to keeping one another safe. Click here to read more.
For more information on the Cook Islands go to www.cookislands.travel