Māori urged to ‘take action and work together’ to combat increased Covid risk

Posted 17 December 2021 by Moana Ellis

A Covid-19 Māori health analyst is urging Māori to “take action and work together” to reduce the impact of expected Delta outbreaks as the country begins travelling.

Vaccination Centre Sign

Vaccination Centre Sign Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The advice comes as a case of the Omicron variant is discovered in New Zealand and thousands of people are on the move as Auckland borders open after four months of lockdown.

Dr Rāwiri Taonui says Māori are being “left on their own” to try to protect their vulnerable from the virus.

He points to slow government action on a targeted strategy to protect Māori at community level.

He says the release of data from the Ministry of Health on unvaccinated Māori has come “very, very late” and Covid-19 funding to community and iwi health providers to care for people in the community has been slow, with some only just arriving as the borders opened.

“That’s not good enough. A bit like the past, Māori are being left on their own to deal with this themselves and that’s the way all these pandemics have been,” Taonui said.

“On the upside, Māori are in a stronger position than in any other time in our history to deal with a pandemic, epidemic event.

“We have really good leaders all over the country and our communities are more resilient than they’ve been before.

“So while we’re quite vulnerable, if we take action and work together, that’s the best way forward for us to protect against what might be a number of outbreaks across the North Island.”

Dr Rawiri Taonui.

Dr Rawiri Taonui. Photo: Supplied

Taonui said Māori must continue to get vaccinated to protect whakapapa and whānau.

“But it is also really important now at community, hapū, iwi and whānau levels to start planning how to look after anyone who becomes sick and how to protect the rest of the family from becoming infected.”

Māori communities should be thinking about how best to separate the sick from the uninfected, Taonui said.

“Some people have been talking about using a marae for a place for the sick if they need to, just as we did in the old days, or the sick go to one house and those who are uninfected go to another house. Or if everyone is to remain in the same household, how to organise around that.”

He says it is important to put other support mechanisms in place to support whānau who become sick, such as the provision of kai, and families should have flu or cold medicines at hand to help ease symptoms.

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