Not enough Māori tested for COVID-19 says researcher

By Jessica Tyson

Māori are not being tested enough for COVID-19 according to independent researcher Dr Rawiri Taonui.

Taonui has released a report outlining his concerns based on his analysis of data from the Ministry of Health and two District Health Boards.

He says the report confirms concerns of under testing, expressed by Māori and Pacific health leaders and community workers.

“There’s been testing of 8.6 per 1000 of the Pākehā population and only 7.4 of the Māori population,” says Taonui.

Latest statistics by the Ministry of Health show out of all of the test processed, 14.4 per cent are Māori, 7.2 per cent are Pasifika, 11.5 per cent are Asian and 66.3 per cent are European or other.

Taonui says New Zealand has got a good capacity for care in intensive care units, however, if COVID-19 was to get into one of the smaller regions, such as the East Coast or the Far North, there is much less health provision in those communities.

“With a lower level of help and with the vulnerability of heart disease, liver disease, kidney issues, respiratory problems, there’s the potential for COVID to represent itself much the same way we are seeing in aged care facilities at the moment, and that could be really devastating for us.”

He says the pattern is of very low testing of the Chinese population, Māori population and Pacific People’s population.

“So we need to pick that up because of our vulnerabilities that kick in at a much younger age than Pakeha. We need testing in our communities to discover reservoirs of COVID that still exist.”

The Ministry of Health says they are also looking at the testing proportion of different ethnic groups as a guide to whether there are areas where more surveillance or testing may be required.