Key public health tools
A range of public health tools can be utilised by members of the community, in conjunction with each other, to prevent and minimise transmission.
Niue is already undertaking all these measures.
Studies are continuously showing that COVID-19 vaccines are very effective at preventing people from severe illness, hospitalisation, and death. While new variants continue emerging, there is also some evidence that vaccines reduce transmission from infected cases to vaccinated individuals.
Niue’s population is highly vaccinated: 99.4% of the population over the age of 12 has had two doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, and 93% of the population over the age of 18 has had an additional booster dose (equalling three vaccine doses in total) of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
Plans are underway to ensure that the eligible population (mainly 50 years and old, healthcare workers, and those with serious medical conditions) also receive the second booster dose six months after their last dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
This will happen from mid-September 2022 onwards. People are advised to get the booster as soon as they are eligible.
Studies have shown that effective utilisation of personal protective equipment, such as masks, reduces transmission of the COVID-19 virus in terms of droplets and aerosols. Both surgical masks and N95/KN95 masks are effective, with the latter providing better protection. Cloth masks are not particularly effective, although they offer some protection compared to not wearing a mask.
Mask use should continue to be encouraged and promoted amongst all residents and the private sector when they are in public indoor settings, especially where it is not possible to maintain physical distance. The Department of Health has a large stock of masks, including N95-equivalent masks, that should be distributed to adults and children as necessary.
Masks worn in the community can be re-worn. Cloth and surgical masks should be washed after every use and then dried thoroughly. Cloth masks can be worn indefinitely but surgical masks should be thrown after five washes. N95/KN95 masks can also be re-worn up to five times but should not be washed; they should be left to dry in the air for a day before reusing them.
The risk of aerosol transmission is higher in crowded, poorly ventilated indoor spaces compared to outdoor spaces. This is because infectious respiratory particles can spread more easily in a confined space.
Where possible, events and gatherings should be held outdoors where natural ventilation, such as wind, is possible.
If it is not possible to hold an event outside, such as church gatherings or school, then windows and doors should be kept open to bring fresh outdoor air into the room. Additionally, mechanical ventilation, such as through fans should be utilised to facilitate air movement in and out of the room.
In indoor settings, physical distancing should be encouraged at all times, to reduce the risk of close contact between people and thus reduce opportunities for the virus to pass from one person to another.
As the virus can survive on surfaces for some hours to possibly days, it is important to regularly clean frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles, light switches, and tabletops. They should be cleaned with a detergent solution. For higher-risk settings such as hospitals and aged-care, disinfection as per the manufacturer’s instructions should be utilised.
Many people have become familiar with the importance of personal hygiene practices. People should be encouraged to continue maintaining these habits at all times. Practices include:
- Staying home when unwell
- Cough and sneeze etiquette (into the elbow or a tissue)
- Hand washing regularly, either with soap and water or hand sanitiser (note soap and water is better than sanitiser)
- Avoiding contact with elderly or pregnant people when unwell
- Scanning with the RockSafe app or using the manual visitor log everywhere they visit.