Dr Collin Tukuitonga: Cook Islanders at increased risk in Auckland outbreak

Thursday August 20, 2020 Written by Dr Collin Tukuitonga, Auckland University Published in Editorials
Health officials Covid-test Aucklanders in their cars, in Otara at the start of this new outbreak. 20081227 Health officials Covid-test Aucklanders in their cars, in Otara at the start of this new outbreak. 20081227

OPINION: Kia orana and greetings,

Unlike the first wave of Covid-19 cases reported in New Zealand, the latest cluster of cases has occurred in Auckland with the initial cases reported in a Pacific family. 

Since then, the cluster of cases have been reported from across Auckland city.  Three cases linked to the Auckland cluster have been reported from Tokoroa.

A total of 74 cases have been reported since the outbreak with 53 in Pacific people, 10 in Maori and the remainder in Pakeha and others. 

Approximately three-quarters of all cases are being reported in Pacific people, including Cook Islanders.  The number of cases reported in Asians and Pakeha is low. 

Interestingly, 28 per cent of all cases reported in Pacific people are in children and young people under 20 years of age.  The number of cases in older people over 60 years is low. 

This is unusual as most cases reported in the pandemic overseas are in older people. Generally, older people are at increased risk of infection and death.

This outbreak pattern may be explained by the exposure in Pacific households where large extended families or several families live together.

This pattern of spread means Pacific families are at increased risk of infection including Cook Islanders.

The risk is higher if you have come in contact with someone who has Covid-19. This can happen before the person shows any signs of Covid-19. In Auckland, the risk is elevated until the cluster is beaten.

All Pacific people are encouraged to follow the advice of health officials and avoid listening to those spreading conspiracy theories and misinformation.

We can’t prevent misinformation but we can help each other recognise it. Facebook is not a reliable source of information.

In order to eliminate the virus, Auckland is at Alert Level 3 and the rest of NZ is at Alert Level 2 of the pandemic response plan.  Alert Level 3 means:

·         Stay home, avoid large gatherings

·         Wash your hands with soap and water

·         Keep social distance of 2 metres outdoors and 1 metre indoors

·         If you have go out, wear a mask

·         Get tested for COVID-19.

If you are in New Zealand, you are also encouraged to get tested if you have symptoms suggestive of Covid-19, or have been exposed to someone with the virus.

You can get a test through your GP or at any of the community-based centres around the rest of the country. There are 45 practices and 15 community centres providing tests across the Auckland region, with further pop-up centres being set up as well.

Remember, it doesn’t matter where you go – the tests are free everywhere.

Masks are now recommended if you are not at home. Masks are effective in preventing the spread of Covid-19. Any mask will do, and you can make your own at home.

This cluster has affected Pacific people mainly, including Cook Islanders.  We have every reason to be optimistic that we will beat the virus again if we follow the advice and stay home.

We have done it before and we can do it again.

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