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Former Cook Islands PM dies in Auckland from Covid

The former Cook Islands Prime Minister and prominent doctor, Joe Williams, has died in Auckland after contracting Covid-19.

The 82 year old had been admitted to hospital on 13 August and passed away last night.

Dr Williams' death is the second this week associated to the latest Auckland outbreak of the coronavirus.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health said Dr Williams' death brings the total number of people who have died from the coronvirus in New Zealand to 24.

The Pasifika Medical Association announced his passing, saying he was a well-respected and much loved man.

Dr Williams spent 25 years in the Cook Islands and served as a Cabinet Minister between 1974 and 1978 and again between 1994 1996 before becoming Prime Minister in 1999.

Dr Williams was born in Aitutaki, went to Northland College, and graduated from Otago Medical School in 1960, later completing a Master in Public Health at the University of Hawaii.

He was involved with the World Health Organisation and in 2016 he received the WHO Award of Appreciation for his role in the elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis. He was also known for his work in the fields of eczema, prostate cancer and diabetes.

Most recently he had been practising medicine in Auckland.

He received the Queen's Service medal in 1974 and was invested with the Companion Queens Service Order in 2011 for services to the Cook Islands community.

He was awarded a Life membership by New Zealand's Pasifika Medical Association in 2004 and was appointed as Patron of the PMA in 2015.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield today said Dr Williams was seen as a leading figure in the Cook Islands medical community and 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."