Samoans most affected in N.Z. pandemic: P.F.L. Chair

Samoans are the most affected during the COVID-19 pandemic currently affecting New Zealand with not-for-profit organisation Pacific Leadership Forum (P.L.F) warning of rising unemployment and poverty.

The Chair of the P.L.F. Teleiai Edwin Puni, in response to questions from the Samoa Observer, said that the Pacific Response Coordination Team of the PFL has again lead community coordination during the outbreak of the delta variant to connect Pacific people across New Zealand to government assistance.

“Samoans were the most affected with around 700 were tested positive with many ending up in hospital and [Managed Isolation and Quarantine],” Teleiai said in an email.

He emphasised that the key role since the COVID-19 pandemic last year is to help Pacific leaders of each island group to coordinate, empower and mobilise their communities.

“This includes P.L.F. setting up and paying for individual zooms for each island to communicate across New Zealand,” he said.

According to Teleiai, there has been an increase of food parcels from Pacific people in the lockdown this year compared to last year.

“ASA Foundation had been supporting over 500 families to access food parcels; 95 per cent are Samoan families,” he said.

Teleiai said that the P.F.L. members are involved with some of the successful island specific vaccination campaigns such as the Tongan community-led MMT.

“There’s currently a Cook Islands and a Niuean community vaccination campaign. The Samoan community targeted vaccination is also underway and will continue over the coming weeks," he said.

"Unfortunately in my opinion, the Samoan campaign is late and may have lost its impact and momentum to drive the Pacific vaccination rates up to the 90 per cent target.

“If the [COVID-19] doesn’t kill our Pacific people, it will be unemployment and poverty.

“How long will the Government be able to provide wage subsidies, food parcels and covid funding assistance? We need to learn how to live through the new environment with possible more lockdowns.”

Teleiai said that the current COVID-19 outbreak is a warning of the challenges that will face Samoans living in New Zealand and also the health system if there is a risk of another outbreak.

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