A former prime minister of the Cook Islands - who is also a prominent doctor in the Auckland community - has been identified as the Covid-19 patient in hospital.

Dr Joseph WIlliams, 85, is a well-know doctor within the Pacific community; particularly Cook Islanders.

It is not yet known whether the doctor has come into contact with someone from the initial family of four who tested positive to the virus earlier this week that resulted in the country going into lockdown.

However, Dr WIlliams' medical practice is near the Americold cool store where a 50-year-old man from that South Auckland family works.

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The Cook Islands News reported that the 82-year-old's admission to hospital resulted in the rushed cancellation of an Air New Zealand flight from Auckland to the Cook Islands scheduled this morning.

The newspaper said up to 41 people bound for the island nation were booked on the flight and there were fears some might have been exposed to the virus and could potentially take it to the Cook Islands.

New Zealand's Ministry of Health said last night: "The MoH is currently working closely with its counterparts in the Cook Islands to mitigate any potential risk of Covid-19 entering that country."

Air New Zealand released a statement saying consultation with health officials had resulted in the airline cancelling the Rarotonga-bound flight.

Dr Williams served as the Cook Islands Prime Minister for four months in 1999. He earlier served as the country's Health Minister.

His work in New Zealand, as a general practitioner and health professional, resulted in him being recognised with a Queen's Service Order appointment after more than 50 years of service.

He has also worked with the World Health Organisation and is a strong health advocate within the Pasifika community in New Zealand.