Māori input lacking in three-phase Omicron plan

By Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

“Omicron is here,” Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall said today as she outlined the government’s three-phase approach to managing the Covid-19 variant.

 The plan shows how the government plans to deal with an outbreak that could reach tens of thousands of case numbers but Māori weren’t part of the planning or design phase of the new plan.

Health director-general Ashley Bloomfield said he would be meeting with a number of Māori via Zoom tomorrow to get feedback on the plan and how it might be implemented.

Verrall said that there are continuing conversations with Māori health providers but the exclusion of Māori in the planning process was not directly addressed.

Greens Covid response spokesperson Dr Elizabeth Kerekere said: “Again and again, Covid-19 has shone a light on the inequities and health disparities in Aotearoa. We need to put our most vulnerable first.

“Whānau who were already struggling to make ends meet will experience the worst impacts of Omicron if we do not prioritise them.

“The Green Party’s focus is on ensuring vulnerable people have everything they need to stay well and keep their whānau safe- especially if they need to self-isolate at home,” Kerekere said.

Under fire

This isn’t the first time the government has come under fire for its Covid response plans.

Last year the Waitangi Tribunal found the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic had breached the Treaty of Waitangi, and called for urgent changes to funding, resourcing and data for Māori service providers. 

Accessibility has also been an issue and, with testing a key part of the three-phase stamp it out plan, itmay still be an issue.

Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern said there was a focus on growing testing capacity. And while rapid antigen tests are pre-emptively being supplied to healthcare sectors, critical workforce organisations and providers who work with vulnerable populations, including Māori and Pasifika providers, tests aren’t readily available in all remote areas. Verrall said RATS were available in some isolated communities and have been in anticipation of the summer.

There were 23 new community cases of Covid-19 reported in New Zealand today. The total in the community now sits at 56.