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Omicron has entered our whare and whānau must ensure they now have their own plan in place, says Māori Authority chair Matthew Tukaki.
"At this point it comes down to preparedness and making sure each and every New Zealander has their own plan in place,” Tukaki said in a media statement early Sunday, prior to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's announcement that NZ would move to the red traffic light setting at 11.59 tonight.
Tukaki, who says he is particularly concerned for regions with high Māori populations such as Northland and the East Coast of the North Island, says "we must be prepared to throw everything at the coming storm”, including ensuring whānau receive booster shots.
“Keep in mind we are dealing not just with individual cases – because when it takes hold in a home the rates of infection will go through it like a bushfire. My message to whānau is be prepared – have your checklists in place and know where to get support from if and should you need it,” he said.
“I do think we have learnt many of the lessons emerging out of Australia and our vaccination rates in the main are holding high – but those booster shots add another layer of protection against the severity of Covid-19 – and that is why I have said we must be prepared to throw everything at the coming storm."
The Māori Authority chair made an impassioned plea for people to get tested if they have been in or near a location of interest and for whānau to prepare themselves for potential periods of self-isolation.
Tukaki says Aotearoa must match the ongoing health response with a social services approach - including messaging that ensures whānau are aware of how to prepare and what support is available to them.
“One of the key challenges will be to ensure that we also match what will be an ongoing health response with a social services approach – one that Māori and Pacific organisations have been leading in the Auckland outbreak of Delta. But that will mean they themselves have the support and resources they need to care and support whanau who might be in for long periods of home isolation,” he said.
“And just respectfully; I have watched the commentary from the epidemiologists the last few days about whether or not the Government plan is full proof enough, he said.
"To be frank no plan is ever truly full-proof and to be frank I would like to see the news cycle shift more from just what the health response needs to be to be one of social services and community response – to get the message out to whānau about what they need, what will happen if they do have to home isolate and what support will be available to them.
"Of course, continue with the vaccination message but in the quiet of our homes the nervous wait will be hanging on the question “what do I do if its me and my whanau” – including how will I cope,” Tukaki said.