Community cases of COVID-19 in Niue have jumped from four to 21 since the first cases were reported last Thursday.
Auckland University Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences associate dean Pacific Sir Colin Tukuitonga has been advising the Niue government on its health response throughout the pandemic.
“It is a dramatic rise but most of those cases are mild and they are isolating at home so they haven’t put too much pressure from a clinical point of view but obviously general support and information would put some sort of pressure on the staff,” Tukuitonga said.
Community transmission in Niue was likely as the latest cases were from different households, but a link had not yet been confirmed, he said.
“They were fortunate, they had two years of COVID-19 free status where they were able to vaccinate everyone and build an isolation facility. They have used the time well and I think with the support from New Zealand, Niue is as best prepared as they can be.”
Tukuitonga said additional support from New Zealand following the departure of a medical assistance team may be needed.
“They have not made a call for additional assistance, there is a [New Zealand] colleague, a public health medicine doctor there at the moment who is helping out. My understanding is if the number of cases continues to rise it will put pressure on the system,” he said.
Talks have been held around the possibility of support from the Pasifika Medical Association, sending in workers from New Zealand.
“For additional nurses with clinical experience looking after sick people in primary care, public health nursing, primary care doctors, a GP and possibly specialist staff for those who are really sick who are in hospital… I suspect that there is community transmission going on, it is just that those links have not been established and it may take a while for that to happen,” Tukuitonga said.
21 active community cases have been recorded so far, reported on the Niue government COVID-19 website.
Minister of Health and Acting Premier Sauni Tongatule strongly advised the public to limit interactions and movements outside their households. Tukuitonga said it was just the nature of COVID-19, “regardless of how good your preparation and protocols are in place this is bound to happen”.
Niue remains under COVID-19 alert code red. “There will be no lockdown in place as we take action to mitigate or minimise the impact of the disease in our communities as much as possible,” Tongatule said.
Niue Tourism destination manager Gaye Wood said tourists were still welcome. Locals were cautious but happy to receive guests. “From a travelling perspective it means all of the services are still operating, there are no changes to that, they are just asking passengers to take care,” Wood said.