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It is critical that the government learn from previous mistakes and prioritise those most at risk from Omicron, such as Māori and Pacific whānau, the Green Party says.
“The most important thing is to make sure those most at risk are supported to get everything they need to stay safe," Green Party Covid-19 spokesperson Dr Elizabeth Kerekere said in a statement Sunday.
"That means making sure those who are most at risk from Omicron can get everything they need to keep themselves and their family safe.”
Dr Kerekere says the pandemic has highlighted the country's inequality.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has continuously shone a light on the inequality in Aotearoa New Zealand. Right now we need to work together and focus on the needs of the most vulnerable in our communities. That includes Māori and Pacific people and those who are immunocompromised, as well as those who cannot work from home and will continue to work with the public as Omicron spreads," she says.
It is vitally important that the government ensures Māori and Pacific providers are fully resourced and supported, Dr Kerekere says.
“Experts have been clear throughout the pandemic that Māori and Pacific whānau [are] among those most at risk from Omircon, as they were from Delta. It is critical that the Government learn from previous mistakes and prioritise making sure Māori and Pacific providers have what they need to keep whānau safe. This includes resources to vaccinate Māori and Pacific children over the age of five years and those eligible for their booster."
The Green Party is calling on the government to prioritise the following matters, which Dr Kerekere says are "the very least that we can do to keep our communities safe":
- Māori and Pacific providers in the rollout of the vaccination to children over the age of five years and those eligible for their booster.
- Mandatory ventilation standards for workplaces and fund schools to meet these standards as quickly as possible.
- The procurement and distribution of N95 masks, or an equally effective equivalent. These higher quality masks must be freely available for the most vulnerable, including people who interact with the public as part of their job.
- Distribute rapid antigen testing as an additional screening tool to those most at risk.
Dr Kerekere says the Green Party urges the government to keep the Covid-19 traffic light settings under review - particularly as it says public health experts have expressed concern that the red setting will not be enough to slow down the spread of Omicron - and consider:
- The viability of regional borders, particularly in areas where the spread of Omicron could impact Māori and Pacific people.
- Limits on indoor gatherings.
- An urgent funding boost for additional intensive care (ICU) beds in hospitals nationwide, and investment in training healthcare workers.