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19 July 2022

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Covid-19: Pacific leaders “prepared” for more cases in Pacific community in NZ

Thursday 17 February 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in New Zealand, Regional

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Covid-19: Pacific leaders “prepared” for more cases in Pacific community in NZ
PHOTO: RNZ

Despite Pasifika making up about half of the cases in the current Omicron outbreak, community leaders say they're prepared for what's to come.

But, Pasifika Immunologist Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu said the actual figure could be much greater, placing further pressure on our health system.

"It is likely the true Covid-19 case numbers are much higher than they are. Evidence and experience has clearly indicated that our Maori and Pasifika communities remain vulnerable to being disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 and therefore warrant prioritization."

Pasifika immunologist Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, of Otago University
Pasifika immunologist Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, of Otago University Photo: Supplied

Pasifika people are being told to ready for self-isolation and to help others do the same, after a record number of cases surpassed 1000 yesterday nation wide.

In Canterbury, Tangata Atumotu Trust, general manager, Carmen Collie said they were prepared and ready for what is to come.

Her organisation have been spear-heading mass vaccination events in Christchurch with hundreds of self-isolation packs already handed to families with medical supplies to prepare people for geting omicron.

"Certainly we are prepared in Christchurch, we have been working in preparation for some weeks, if not months. We are working really hard in the boosting space, we are providing them with isolation preparation packs in a number of pacific languages."

$NZD1.5 million has been made available to Pacific groups across the country, complementing the $2 million announced last year for funding towards boosting vaccine numbers for Pasifika.

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Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio said so far more than 100 applications had been received for the first round of funding.

It is expected to help Pacific youth groups, churches and other health organisations get safety messages and life saving information out in at least nine different languages.

He wanted community led initiatives to take charge ahead of the borders opening.

"So far the priorities is to prepare our communities," he said.

Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu said boosters, and information must continue to be accessible for our most vulnerable - especially 5-11 year olds.

"So, moving forward we need to ensure that there is an equity focus that reduces barriers but also builds trust for people to ensure they get access to the help, care and services they need. Please get vaccinated, boosted, tested, wear a mask, follow the public health measures and have a plan."

She said despite Omicron reporting milder symptoms, she asked people take it seriously to slow the spread and to reach out to others to help them do the same.