Indigenous groups fear Covid spike as New Zealand concludes tight policy closing

"There will be more tanks," said human rights activist Joe Trinder, using the Maori word at funerals.


On Saturday, New Zealand reported the highest number of new cases of coronavirus in a single day: 160.

The South Pacific island nation was virtually free of the virus for much of the epidemic, eliminating it with a combination of border restrictions, solitary confinement requirements, testing, contact tracking and extended closures. In August, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ordered a nationwide shutdown following the finding of one case, the first in the country in six months.

More than two months later, the closure continues in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, but the delta-induced outbreak of the virus has grown to more than 3,000 cases.

With little hope of returning to the "zero Covid," New Zealand is now moving away from its policy, following other Asian-Pacific countries such as Australia and Singapore in trying to find a way to live with the virus after escaping for so long. .

Closure of the door will end once 90 percent of those 12 years and older have been fully vaccinated, which is expected by the end of next month. But as the borders are being reduced the number of cases is expected to increase, with critics saying the maximum amount will be paid by New Zealand's smaller communities, including the number of Indigenous Maori people.

Compared to the people of New Zealand as a whole, Maori have high levels of poverty, limited access to health care and are more likely to live in large homes where the virus can easily spread.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern receives his first Pfizer Covid vaccine in Auckland, June 2021. Alex Burton / AP file

"We are in a position to see more Maori die," said human rights activist Joe Trinder.

The New Zealand shortage of cases has kept the Covid-19 death toll among the world's poorest people, 28. But government modeling suggests that next year the number of cases in the greater Auckland area could reach 5,300 XNUMX a week, with most of New Zealand recording since the beginning of the epidemic.

That has raised concerns about the Maori and the Pacific Islanders, another small group, both focused on Auckland. Both groups account for about a quarter of New Zealanders but three-quarters of the cases and hospitalizations in the current outbreak. They also have lower immunization rates, and just over half of eligible Maori are fully vaccinated compared to more than 73 percent of the total population.

"There will be more tanks," Trinder said, using the Maori word at funerals.

Health workers and a Maori security guard at the Covid testing ground in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Health workers and a Maori security guard at the Covid testing ground in Christchurch, New Zealand. Adam Bradley / Sipa USA with AP

Drs. Michael Baker, a pandemic specialist at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, blamed social inequality for the recent delta spread between the Maori and the Pacific Islanders.

He said: “Many lived in dangerous houses and in some cases were mentally ill, using alcohol and drugs. Tracking communication has become increasingly difficult in these statistics, and diseases have continued to spread despite widespread efforts to control disease outbreaks. ”

Government medical advisers have argued that high levels of immunization will limit the number and severity of HIV cases as more New Zealanders are exposed to the disease, preventing hospitals from becoming as frustrated as in the United States.

"95 to 95 percent of people receiving Covid-19 will have a viral infection that does not require treatment but will need to be monitored, usually at home," said another counselor, Drs. Jeff Lowe, this month.

Sally Dalhousie, chief executive officer of The Fono, an affordable healthcare provider in Auckland, said such a system puts a burden on the community.

"It works if you have a small family and a big enough home," he said. "When you find a lot of people crammed into a toilet, it's not a possible solution."

Critics say New Zealand's closure has been a disaster for low-income households in other ways. Even before the August outbreak, Auckland-based Child Poverty Action Group estimates that an additional 18,000 children were thrown into poverty as a result of the first job ban last year. The Maori and Pacific Islanders were heavily involved in the wave, the group said.

Officials said last week many low-income families were eligible for weekly grants.

They also announced tens of millions of dollars spent on increasing the Maori vaccine, which gained momentum this month in a “Saturday Saturday” campaign for all New Zealanders. However, efforts have been hampered by the spread of false vaccine information between Maori and Pacific Islanders, who claim Trinder has a high degree of mistrust in government based on his experience of injustice and oppression.

Candice Luke of Pataka Kai, a national food preparation program, said she hesitated to tell her fellow Maori that she had been vaccinated “until someone older than me got it.”

"If you are part of a larger community, such as a church group or a cultural group, and they have collectively decided not to be vaccinated, it is very difficult to break the ice because that is your support plan, your family," said Luke, who lives in Auckland.