Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Pressure mounts on government over Maori response

There were 198 new cases of Covid-19 in the community on Friday, with new cases in Auckland, Northland, Bay of Plenty, Wairarapa, Waikato and Canterbury. Video / George Heard / Michael Craig / Dean Purcell

‘Stay away’ is the message from some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable communities, preparing to protect themselves from an influx of Covid cases this summer.

Iwi and community leaders from Te Tai Tokerau and the Eastern Cape called on vacationers to avoid their areas, suggesting a repetition of checkpoints used at the start of the pandemic, citing pockets of low immunization coverage and limited access to health care. health.

“We ask vacationers, those who are not traveling to Te Whānau a Apanui to refrain from entering our tribal territories this summer,” said Rawiri Waititi, iwi response member and co-leader of Te Pāti Māori.

It comes as the New Zealand Maori Council files an urgent Waitangi Tribunal request amid the government’s pandemic it says is harming Maori, and the Iwi Presidents Forum this week said Maori ” would bear the brunt of the inequalities caused by Covid ”.

The current outbreak has disproportionately affected the Maori, who now represent 42% (2,763) of the 6,532 cases, while they represent 17% of the population.

Just over 91% of the general population over the age of 12 has received a dose of Pfizer vaccine and 82% are fully immunized. But for Maori, the rates are 78% and 62%, respectively.

Maori at the population level have been disadvantaged by the roll-out of the vaccine, which has focused primarily on older groups.

The disparity has narrowed in recent months after it opened to all eligible age groups, and Maori have been vaccinated at a much faster rate than all other ethnicities (50% faster than Pākehā).

However, experts warn that if rates do not increase significantly when Auckland’s borders are relaxed on December 15 and Covid-19 is allowed to spread further, the impacts could be devastating for Maori.

Associate Minister of Health (Maori) Peeni Henare.  Photo / Mark Mitchell
Associate Minister of Health (Maori) Peeni Henare. Photo / Mark Mitchell

On Friday, Te Whānau in Apanui called on vacationers to stay away during the summer, and the whānau returned to get vaccinated and tested negative.

“Our healthcare system is small and currently can only respond to our population living here,” said local general practitioner and iwi health officer Dr Rachel Thomson.

“We have to make sure that you are safe when you enter the iwi and that our people at home are safe as well.”

This came after Maori TV reported that leaders in Te Tai Tokerau in Northland also this week called on visitors to wait until vaccination rates are higher.

Only 58% of the eligible Maori population in Northland are fully immunized.

“Te Tai Tokerau will not be the collateral damage – you might as well send body bags,” said Professor Mākere Mutu, chairman of Ngāti Kahu.

Aperahama Edwards said the risk was too great to soften the border and urged northern relations who resided in Auckland not to return home.

The New Zealand Maori Council on Thursday asked the Waitangi Tribunal for an urgent investigation into the government’s response to the Maori pandemic, saying it had not listened to their concerns.

National Secretary Peter Fraser said the iwi board and leaders told the government during the consultation on the Covid-19 protection framework – traffic light system – that they wanted a vaccination rate full target of 95% for Maori be met first.

This had to take into account the known statistical undercoverage of Maori – around 70,000 people – and the younger age profile, which meant that many Maori were not eligible for vaccination.

They also wanted the five to 11 age group to prioritize Maori and better planning with Maori for home segregation.

“For a middle class family, maybe they could put someone in a spare bedroom, but for many whānau living in overcrowded houses, in poverty, with other stresses, a case will end quickly. with all infected whānau. “

Fraser said they were aware of the mental toll of the lockdown on Aucklanders and so are not currently calling for the Dec. 15 extension, but to work more closely with the government to ensure Maori are better protected.

Epidemiologist Dr Michael Baker said as Covid-19 spread across the country he would seek out unvaccinated communities, which are currently disproportionately Maori.

“I can understand the responses from the community. Covid is very difficult to predict, but it is likely that there will be tragedies and more among the Maori population.”

This week, the government approved nearly $ 50 million to increase Maori vaccination rates – part of the $ 120 million Maori Communities Covid-19 Fund, with more to distribute and $ 60 million also to be used to help Maori protect their communities from Covid.

This was part of an effective campaign over the past few months to give Maori groups the resources to run immunization campaigns.

A few months ago, Maori first dose rates were roughly 50% lower overall than non-Maori. To date, the rate was 17% late and continued to decline.

Associate Minister of Health (Maori) Peeni Henare said a one-month delay has been given for the Auckland border to be lifted so New Zealanders can prepare.

“The most important thing anyone can do is get vaccinated and Maori have time to get vaccinated before the border is lifted.”

The traffic light system was better designed to protect against Covid-19 than the alert levels, he said.

Regions with the lowest vaccination rates were likely to switch to the red setting and face greater restrictions than they currently do at Alert Level 2, he said.

“There will be some who think the government is moving too fast and we hear it.

“This is why we are putting in place public health measures such as vaccine or testing requirements for those leaving Auckland and restrictions on high-risk environments at red to continue to protect people from the virus. in places with the lowest vaccination rates. “

At the request of the Waitangi Court, Henare said officials were working on a response.

As of Friday, 198 cases of Covid-19 were reported, including 152 in Auckland and 30 in Waikato.

Cases have also been confirmed in Northland, Bay of Plenty, Wairarapa and Canterbury, and one weakly positive case has been recorded in Wellington. An 80-year-old was also deceased.

There were 76 people in the hospital and six in intensive care units.

The Auckland District Health Council (DHB) crossed the 90% full vaccination threshold on Friday.

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