Joseph Williams, a former prime minister of the Cook Islands, has died after contracting the coronavirus (COVID-19) in New Zealand, the Pasifika Medical Association announced on Saturday.
Williams, a well-known and respected doctor, was admitted to hospital on Aug. 13 after contracting the novel coronavirus.
The New Zealand Ministry of Health confirmed that the 82-year-old’s death was the second COVID-19 death in the country in as many days.
The Director General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield, said in a statement that Williams was a “leading figure” in the Cook Islands medical community.
“Our thoughts are with his family and community at this time of loss and grief,” Bloomfield said.
Williams had served the Cook Islands, “his community in New Zealand and his many patients” for more than 60 years, the Pasifika Medical Association said in a statement.
“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,” his nephew and association president Dr Kiki Maoate said.
Williams spent 25 years in the Cook Islands and served as minister of health and education.
He also had a brief stint as prime minister in 1999 and was also involved in the World Health Organisation, serving as a member of the executive board.
The number of COVID-19 related deaths in New Zealand now stands at 24.
A man in his 50s died in Auckland on Friday, the first COVID-19-related death in the country in more than three months.