Former PM of the Cook Islands Joseph Williams dies from COVID-19

Former PM of the Cook Islands Joseph Williams dies from COVID-19

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The second COVID-19 related death since yesterday (4 Sept) has been announced to media by the Ministry of Health.

The former PM of the Cook Islands Dr Joseph Williams passed away last night in Auckland City Hospital.  He was admitted to Auckland City Hospital on 13 August and passed away yesterday evening. Dr Williams, was in his 80s, he was a member of health services in both New Zealand and the Cook Islands. 

This now means the total number of COVID-19 related deaths in New Zealand is 24.


The Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says he was ‘a well-known politician, physician and author.’

“Dr Williams was seen as a leading figure in the Cook Islands medical community, and he will be sadly missed.”

Throughout statges of Dr Williams life, he has served the Cook Islands as a leader, of his community in New Zealand and has had many patients for more than 60 years as a Dr — He spent 25 years in the Cook Islands and worked as Minister of Health and Education in 1974 to 1978, Tourism, Transport and State-Owned Enterprises from 1994 to 1996 and Prime Minister in 1999.

The birthplace of Dr Willions was in Aitutaki. He went to Northland College, a small co-educational secondary school in Kaikohe. He graduated from Otago Medical School in 1960 and later completed a Master in Public Health at the University of Hawaii. While he returned to the Cook Islands in 1964, he was the Medical Superintendent, Surgeon, Physician and Director of Health and Social Services.

Moving forward, he was associated with the WHO (World Health Organisation) as a member of the Executive Board from 1995 to 1997. During the year 2016, he received the World Health Organisation Award of Appreciation for his role in the elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis. Researcher in eczema, prostate cancer and diabetes. He was a prolific writer and publisher. 

The Pasifika Medical Association said in a press release that Dr Williams was a ‘statesman, leader, mentor, wise advisor to man, passionate advocate and strategist.’ 

“His political career started in 1964 when he was first elected to parliament. He held the Overseas seat for the Cook Islands representing Cook Islands people living in New Zealand from 1994-2003 and remained active in politics.”

“He held many senior roles in the health sector in New Zealand, served on many advisory committees and led the establishment of many organisations including the Cook Islands Health Network. He established Mt Wellington Integrated Family Health Care Clinic, which served over 15,000 patients who travelled from all over New Zealand to see him and continued to practice medicine up until his recent short illness.”

“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,” said the Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

“His love, generosity and kindness have touched so many families, friends and colleagues. He has left us all with the gifts of his journey, and for that, we are forever grateful.” Dr Kiki Maoate ONZM, nephew and President Pasifika Medical Association

The Ministry of Health will do the regular update on COVID-19 at 1 pm today.

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