An exclusive summary by the website author who is a former BBC TV and radio journalist
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CORONAVIRUS LATEST  (Islands remain free from Covid-19)
The content of this page - unless otherwise credited - is a summary of stories from  Cook Islands News, the daily newspaper of the Cook Islands which is published Monday to Saturday inclusive

Its web site is updated daily and is highly recommended as a trusted source of news.  This summary is published with permission of the copyright owners Cook Islands News Ltd.  Click on any underlined headlines for the full story on the newpaper's own website.  Photos unless otherwise credited are copyright Cook Islands News


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Cultural village dancers
The government is backing a bid to get world heritage status for a 600 year old village high in the hills around Rarotonga. Maungaroa was inhabited by Tinomana Ariki and his tribe long before the arrival of Christianity and was unihabited for many years before it was transformed into a cultural village visitor attraction. The   Ministry of Culture says HIghland Paradise is an "unparallelled example of a living marae" and its asking UNESCO to designate it.  Photo: Highland Paradise website
A new king has been crowned on Mangaia, and the entire population of the island was there to watch.  Tangi Tereapii was installed Numangatini Ariki at Te Maruata-Nui-o-Numangatini marae. The day long event was also attended by friends and families from Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Atiu. Marguees 20 metres long were filled with food to share.
Mangaia's new king
Plans by a New Zealand businessman to launch a a new airline providing direct flights from to Rarotonga from Wellington and Christchurch have been put on hold. Mike Pero was proposing to launch Pasifika Air with six return flights a week from June. But  the multi-milionaire says the uncertainty over a "travel bubble" with New Zealand means they will now have to wait. Above: artist's impression of the new plane's livery
washed up green turtle
A green sea turtle which died after ingesting a plastic bag has led to a renewed call to end plastic pollution.  The turtle was washed up on Rutaki beach on Rarotonga just before Christmas. Award winning ocean photographer, Charlotte Pioho has add her voice to the local environmental group, Te Ipukarea Society in urging islanders to eliminate their use of plastics. 
Polluted Muri lagoon
Muri lagoon, normally the jewel in Rarotonga's crown for swimming and snorkelling is now unsafe because of pollution caused by environmental conditions and human activity. Government scientists are advising that locals avoid it because it's saturated with a foul smelling dark coloured sediment.  Dead fish, eels, sea cucumber and marine worms have also been found along the shoreline. The scientists say swimming in the water could result in illness and they're closely monitoring it.
Plans to upgrade the airport on remote Manihiki are on hold because there's no funding to start the project. The aim is to seal and extend the tiny coral runway so it can handle larger planes and enable 34 people to land on the island at a time instead of the current 15. But the government is hoping work can start in July
What a catch
One of the largest species of reef fish has been caught off Manihiki. JeanMarie Williams is pictured with the 30kg humpback wrasse which his son, Gabral landed using a handline with octopus weat for bait. It was so heavy he could barely lift it.
The minimum wage in the Islands will remain at NZ$8 an hour at least until July 2022.  The uncertain economic climate caused by the Covid pandemic is one of the main reasons why. But there are fears the decision will drive more Islanders to move to New Zealand where the minimum wage has just been raised to NZ$20 an hour
Islanders on Pukapuka and its near neighbour, Nassau are battling to protect the coral reef from a hundreds of crown of thorns starfish which are damaging it. 460 have been collected so far around Pukapuka and 135 around Nassau. Pukapuka's executive officer, Pio Ravarua said 335 were retrieved in a single day at the beginning of March but two weeks later, they'd been replaced by 100 new ones
Left: Islanders with just one of the strarfish menace

New police commissioner Keenan
A Cook Islander who spent 36 years in the New Zealand Police Force is the new Police Commissioner. James Keenan said it was his long held dream to return home and use his skills to benefit his people. Raised in Rarotonga, Keenan was the first Cook Islander to become a commissioned officer in the New Zealand Police. He expects to start his new job in May or June.
The Islands has changed its Covid alert system to align to the one used by New Zealand. The current status is now defined as "Alert Level 1: Prepare" which means COVID-19 is not present in the Cook Islands and is controlled in New Zealand with no community transmission
More details here
Cook Islands covid watch
The Prime Ministers of the Cook Islands and New Zealand have announced that two way quarantine-free travel will start on 16 May, subject to some final checks. As part of the "travel bubble" arrangement, travellers will have to have spent 14 days in either the Islands or New Zealand before starting their journey
Vaccinations against Covid 19 are expected to start this month. The Pfzer vaccine is being provided by New Zealand and it'll be free to islanders over 16. Nearly all village clinics will close for 10 weeks while they concentrate on the roll out
Dengue fever has now spread to three of the outer islands - Aitutaki, Mauke and most recently, Mangaia. There are 343 confirmed, suspected and probable cases in the Cook Islands which is an increase of 56 per cent since April 1, when there were 220. Most cases are on Rarotonga.The outbreak began in February, since when 38 people have been admitted to hospital with the disease
Mosquitos cause dengue fever
Pacific Resort Rarotonga from the air
The biggest hotel group in the Islands has completed a NZ$10 million renovation at two of its resort complexes. The Little Polynesian Resort  and the Pacific Resort, Rarotonga which are part of the Pacific Resort group, have had a complete renovation of rooms and bathrooms. The upgrades have also boosted the star ratings of the two resorts with Little Polynesian moving from four and a half stars to five stars, and the Pacific Resort Rarotonga moving from four to four and a half stars
Photo: Pacific Resort Rarotonga from their own photo gallery
Regional health experts are asking the World Health Organisation to help identify a new mystery virus on Rarotonga.  Symptoms are similar to dengue fever, but tests on those affected have confirmed it isn't that illness. Neither is it  the Zika or Chikungunya  viruses which are endemic. It's not known how many people have been affected by it.
Opposition leader, Tina Pupuke Browne has said Islanders should have been vaccinated before the border re-opens to tourists on May 16. But a New Zealand doctor and senior university lecturer in paediatric surgery says the risk of covid getting into the Islands is "pretty low". Dr Kiki Maoate, himself a Cook Islander, says broder controls are the most important aspect of protection.
Opposition leader Tina Browne