'Ugly, racist messages directed at South Auckland Covid hotspot a 'double standard'

By Whatitiri Te Wake

Auckland councillor Fa'anana Efeso Collins is furious that, yet again, Pacific people at the centre of the outbreak are facing hate.

Collins keeps in touch with the Assembly of God church where 58 of the current Covid Delta outbreak cases link back to and he says tensions and anxieties continue to be an issue among churchgoers.

“There is a double standard going on here. The guy who was on the North Shore, a 58-year-old, was praised for getting tested and now we're seeing belligerent, ugly racist texts being thrown towards the church in Mangere. This is unacceptable.”

Of the 148 total cases, 58 are linked to the church. Cr Collins says he is confident this could have been avoided.

“This just goes to show that the vaccine rollout should have prioritised Māori, Pasifika communities. It should have prioritised South Auckland and Auckland.”

'Really disappointed'

“There were a number of us calling back in February. I remember Dr Rawiri McKree Jansen and a number of Pacific medical professionals who were asking for it. I'm really disappointed we're in this situation but here we are.”

The government has widely being criticised for the delay in getting vaccination numbers up. Currently, just under 21% of Pasifika are fully vaccinated, and just over 11% of Māori. However,

Health director-general Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield is confident the Ministry of Health has engaged Māori and Pasifika adequately during the planning and rollout of the vaccine.

“There has been enormous engagement with Māori providers and Pacific providers with Māori and Pacific communities. right from the start of the programme and that's been a big part of our work."

Given the current cases linked to the Assembly of God church in Māngere and Pasifika people being at the top of overcrowding statistics at 38.5%, Bloomfield is acutely aware of overcrowding and he offers reassurance to communities that there are supports in place to assist those close contacts of church members who are to self-isolate

“All cases are taken to quarantine facilities so other members of the household can isolate in safely and second that their welfare and support needs are met.

Third, if they can’t isolate safely at home, we have a dedicated managed isolation facility that can be used as well.”

 Collins urges everyone to get vaccinated but does add that there is still mistrust among Māori and Pacific communities when it comes to the state and its systems.

“We're the highest data when it comes to overcrowding and homelessness. Naturally many people in South Auckland, many Māori and Pasifika are going to feel neglected and, all of a sudden, it's go and get a vaccine.

"If you don't trust these public institutions, then you're not going to adhere to what they're asking for."