Racist Pasifika comments are obnoxious


In the wake of the latest Covid outbreak, racist comments directed at Pasifika have prompted health and church authorities to speak out.

The current Delta variant outbreak has disproportionately affected the Samoan community, including people exposed at a major church assembly in Māngere in Auckland.

“These people were involved in legal activity and were operating within Level 1 Covid guidelines,” said an Auckland minister who preferred not to be named.

“The church is lively and two-thirds of cases are under 30.

“These people were ineligible to get the vaccine,” he said.

The Ministry of Health also joined the conversation, with Dr Ashley Bloomfield saying “The virus is the problem, not people. People are the solution, be part of the solution.”

“Bloomfield says authorities are doing “a tremendous amount of work” with the Pacific communities affected by the latest Delta outbreak and the community was “incredibly responsive” to this and previous outbreaks.

The church leader, who did not wish to be named, said members were disappointed by the attack but felt no need to retaliate, adding “they can say whatever, it changes nothing”.

“Our service happened before the lockdown so it’s not like we knew this was going to happen.

“We just had an unwanted visitor,” he said.

“We’re just getting on with it”.

Manukau Ward councillor Alf Filipaina says he is disappointed in role the media has played.

Filipaina says there are five other church-related locations of interest that were not in South Auckland and their congregations’ ethnicities have not been highlighted in the news.

Another Manukau Ward councillor, Fa’anana Efeso Collins pointed out that a lot of Pacifica people keep the economy ticking over.

“Many Pacific people work in essential services as well customer-facing roles like bus driving and hospitality, it’s not a surprise they also make up so many of the positive cases,” Collins told RNZ.

Vaccination coverage rates

Auckland University associate professor of public health Dr Colin Tukuitonga said church services are the perfect setting for transmission, given the prevalence of singing and close proximity of attendees.

“The appalling vaccination coverage rates that we have is one reason why we are seeing many, many more cases,” he said.

“They did a big song and dance about that mass vaccination event a few weeks back, but I’ve always said that wasn’t going to work.

“Yes there were large numbers, but they were vaccinating low priority groups and we had barely 1300 Pacific vaccinated out of 15,000.”

“We’ve always asked for more targeted vaccination options for Māori and Pacific communities.

“There’s some dedicated options for Māori and Pacific communities but nowhere [near] enough.”

Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu from the University of Otago says the Delta variant presented a more dangerous version of Covid-19 within the community setting.

“Vaccination rates for Pacific peoples collectively across Aotearoa New Zealand, remain of significant concern,” said Sika-Paotonu, a pathology and molecular medicine expert.

She says more work and support is needed to ensure Pacific and Māori communities were prioritised.

Sika-Paotonu says it was devastating to hear more than half the reported Covid-19 cases were affecting Pacific peoples, with numbers projected to rise.


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