Former Cook Islands premier dies after contracting Covid-19

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WELLINGTON, Sept 5, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – Former Cook Islands prime minister
Joe Williams has died after contracting Covid-19, New Zealand officials said
Saturday.

Williams, 85, who lived mostly in New Zealand, is the country’s 24th Covid-
related death.

He was admitted to Auckland hospital on August 13, two days after the
government confirmed a fresh outbreak of the virus had ended the country’s
run of 102 days without community transmission.

Williams was first elected to the Cook Islands parliament in 1968 and was
prime minister of the tiny South Pacific island nation for four months in
1999.

He was also a doctor and a widely regarded member of the health services in
both New Zealand and the Cook Islands.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said Williams had “contributed
very significantly to his two home countries through a lifetime of service.
As a doctor, a health researcher and as a politician.”

New Zealand’s director-general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, described
Williams as “a leading figure in the Cook Islands medical community and he
will be sadly missed.

“Our thoughts are with his family and community at this time of loss and
grief.

“Today’s sad news again reinforces the importance of our shared vigilance
against Covid-19, the very serious consequences the virus can carry with it,
and the measures we all need to take to stop the spread, break any chain of
transmission and prevent deaths.”