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Dr Rawiri Taonui | 20 April | COVID-19 Update for Māori
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Wāhanga Ohiti Tuatoru COVID-19 Update for Māori 20 April 2020| General update as we move toward Level 3
Dr Rawiri Taonui

New and Total Cases

The government has decided to move to Alert Level 3 on April 28 and open schools and some businesses on April 29. There are another 9 new cases today and 1440 in total. There are no new deaths. New cases continue a more than 2-week decline from a peak of 89 to 9. We will want to see new cases remain single-digit and or 0 over several days to properly support the decision to go to Alert Level 3 on 29 April.

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Recovered and Active Cases

There is a further increase in recovered cases to 974. The total of recovered cases exceeds the peak of 930 active cases on 6 April. Active Cases, the total of all cases less recovered and deaths, continue to fall; they are now 454, the first time they are below 500.

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We will want the gap between recovered and active cases to widen further with active cases well below 50.


Māori Cases

There are 2 new Māori cases today and now a total of 123. We remain 8.5% of all cases. Over the last 9 days, there have been 14 new cases. In the first 9 days of April, there were 62. With increased testing and despite that on available data this remains at less than an adequate level for Māori in the regions, the lower trend is very positive.

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I have received several questions and reports from frontline non-hospital based Māori health staff of shortages of PPE gear for community health care workers. Two days ago, I had another report that about half of a group of Māori who arrived at a testing station and were turned away because the testing station did not have enough swabs. There is a concern when contrasting their experience on the ground against the daily live briefings where the Director-General of Health reports large stockpiles of PPE gear and swabs.

The Ministry has about 88,000 swabs and around 40 to 55 million masks. Stock is not the issue. Metalform in Dannevirke has also repurposed its factory to produce PPE gear including 30,000 face shields per week. Whanganui company QSI has similarly repurposed and is producing 100,000 masks a day. Manufacturing NZ has registered 250 companies to produce PPE.

There is no shortage. Rather the issue is delivery. The Ministry has necessarily established a national network for distribution. The issue is that this seems to be not reaching community-level health workers as readily as it arrives at DHB facilities such as hospitals. If you are experiencing shortages it is important to make this known to the local DHB and the Ministry and if necessary, suppliers.

Pacific Peoples Cases

There are no new Pacific cases today. The total remains at 66. Pacific stay on 4.6% of all cases. In the last 9 days, there have been 13 new cases compared to the first 9 days of April when there were 28.

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A member of the Pacific community has impressed upon me the need for continuous testing in their community when we move to Level 3. Their very valid point, equally applicable to Māori, is that many will have lost their jobs, Pacific households are larger, they will need to maintain ongoing protection of mātua/matua and that there are many more people who have the prior medical conditions that COVID-19 so ruthlessly exploits.

I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the Pacific Churches. There have been several reports of multiple pockets of Pacific migrant workers, particularly in the agricultural and horticultural industries, in the upper central North Island areas of the Waikato and Bay of Plenty, who have been laid off work, sometimes with just a two week’s pay. Whether their employers have or have not received the wage subsidy is not known. Effectively stranded in New Zealand the Pacific Churches have been their main pillar of support.

Voluntary service in the Pacific community is not the same as in the Western world. To serve in the Pacific community is to acknowledge elders, culture and to teach. It is not self-serving. It is a duty of the heart and act of service to the community that is the foundation of leadership. ‘O le ala i le pule, o le tautua’ the pathway to leadership is through service.


Total tests are 86,305 at 17,261tpm (tests per million of population). Our rate of testing is higher than countries like Australia, Canada, Belgium and the USA. Other countries such as Norway, Switzerland, Portugal, Israel, Italy, Germany, Spain and Austria are higher at 19,000 to 26,000tpm.

If there is a concern it is that testing has fallen over the last 3 days to 3,000. This sends a hollow message about how serious the Ministry of Health it is taking the priority of testing Māori and Pacific.

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Māori and Pacific Testing Data

The title of the section on ‘Ethnicity’ on the Ministry of Health website now reads ‘Ethnicity (Prioritised) and orders groups as Māori, Pacific, European and Others, Asian and Unknown’. While this is helpful in a Māori and Pacific context, we would be better served if the Ministry lifted testing for Māori and Pacific in the regions (see my report Mātaitanga Tāngata – Test the People on Waatea News) and released the ethnic data for testing by DHB and ethnicity, the number of Māori and Pacific that are recovered and active cases and how many are associated with the clusters. That the Ministry possesses but does not provide that information rings hollow. This is contrary to the principles of protection and partnership under Te Tiriti o Waitangi because it impedes our ability to identify and prioritise areas of greatest need.

Te Whakakaupapa Urutā the National Pandemic Response Group has queried whether the Ministry collects the data. Based on several informal releases of partial data I can confirm that the Ministry does collect this data. I have a Ministerial response dated 14 April saying the information would be available. The Ministry is yet to make contact. I will try again. Beyond that, the option is the Ombudsperson, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racism (Geneva), the Experts Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (ENRIP – Geneva), the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII New York) and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

There is also a further contradiction that the Asian community is listed as the fourth priority. The overall pattern of testing has been over-testing of the Pākehā community and under-testing of Māori, Pacific and the Asian community. Indeed, the 14 April figure for the Asian community shows they were on 14 April the lowest tested ethnic group. Placing Pākehā as a priority over them is a clumsy act of cross-cultural ineptitude. We must address this because the Asian community has been the subject of some unhelpful racism over COVID-19.

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Noho haumaru stay safe and self-sovereign, Dr Rawiri Taonui


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