Pasifika community leading N.Z. COVID-19 testing

The head of a health clinic in South Auckland says Pacific people have undergone the highest rates of COVID-19 swab testing in New Zealand,

The Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O) of the Otara-based South Seas Healthcare Clinic, Lemalu Silao Vaisola-Sefo said that the Pacific community has continued to respond to concerns and have been keeping safe following Ministry of Health advice.

In a response to queries from the Samoa Observer, he stated that in the second major COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown in 2020 (August)  the Pasifika community were disproportionately overrepresented in COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

“The community responded really well by following the isolation rules, getting tested and sticking to our bubbles,” he said.

Lemalu said that in 2021 the community has continued to follow advice from the Ministry of Health and have been getting tested.

“Pacific people have the highest rate of [COVID-19] swab testing in NZ,” he said.

“Our Pasifika Community leaders and Church leaders have been absolutely critical to keeping Pasifika safe and well. 

"They have enabled pop-up testing sites, promoted [Ministry of Health] messages and helped to reduce the fear our people have with the pandemic. 

"The Pacific Community providers have also taken a very practical approach - setting up Food banks, helping with income support etc.”

He said that many of the frontline workers in border services and managed isolation facilities are Samoan.

“Our biggest and busiest [facility] is staffed by Pacific [people] and Samoans are the biggest group making up our nurses, security guards, traffic control," he said. 

"Our Samoan community leaders and church leaders have been outstanding in modelling effective community communication and engagement and have helped to shape the [Ministry of Health] and Public Health responses [such as] having contact tracers who can speak our languages,” he said.

He said that the country's Minister for Pacific Peoples, Su’a William Sio has been very visible and accessible for the community, and their voice in Government. 

He said that Su'a had enabled collaborations across Ministries.

“He has led nightly Zoom meetings with our community so we can discuss Covid-19 vaccine issues. He has also advocated strongly for our Government to include our Home Island nations access to Covid-19 vaccines in our Government's planned purchase," he added.

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