Minister continues to defend government's Covid response

By Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

"Delta has very quickly become a Māori pandemic," Simon Royal of the National Hauora Coalition told the Waitangi Tribunal in its special hearing this week. 

The Covid Response Minister continues to defend the rollout, which is receiving scathing reviews by Māori health experts and leaders this week.

Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa co-chair Mate Urutā said words that resonated with many of the 40 claimants, "It's not tino rangatiratanga if Māori are required to submit competing proposals for Crown officials to select to be funded. It is not equity if we get vaccinated last. It is not partnership when the Crown ignores advice."

The government's Covid -19 modeller, Professor Shaun Hendy, gave evidence to the tribunal earlier this week saying, "It is particularly clear that the work that we did on the impacts for Māori, particularly around the health risks, was not taken into account in the vaccine rollout, and it’s hard to understand why.”

Hendy said a report was given to the Ministry of Health showing Māori were 2.5 times more likely to be hospitalised than non-Māori and non-Pasifika.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield was grilled today before the Waitangi Tribunal on the government's response to Covid 19 in relation to Māori the claimants want Bloomfield to clarify whether or not the vaccination strategy and traffic light system is consistent with Te Tiriti o Waitangi. 

Bloomfield was quizzed on an array of Covid topics including, planning and implementation of the Covid 19 protection framework. Asked about the recommendations made following a series of consultation hui with providers and Te Puni Kokiri both agreeing not to move the country in the traffic light system until Māori vaccination remained low was wrong. He agreed.

Both the Prime Minister and Covid 19 response Minister Chris Hipkins remained confident that it was the right decision, despite Public Health Advice advising against the implementation of the traffic light system.

Hipkins also said that the country has the lowest case numbers in the OECD and that is because of the response.