Tagata Pasifika The Pacific voice on New Zealand television since 1987

Pacific Island families around the world learning to live with Covid

Soana Aholelei | Reporter / Director

When Covid first hit over 18 months ago, the world had no idea how to deal with a pandemic.

The Swan family in the United Kingdom, the Hafoka family in Spain and the Keanaaina family in the United States of America are Pacific Island families just rolling with Covid, kicking Covid and just working out how to deal with lockdowns.

Fast forward to today, a lot has changed.

In Santander, Spain, Tongan teacher Simon Hafoka and his family are now living with fewer restrictions.

“Life is sort of back to normal. We still have to wear masks, we still have restrictions, but not as many as there were.”

The Hafoka family in Spain. Photo: Supplied
The Hafoka family in Spain. Photo: Supplied

“School children all have to wear masks inside classes, and also the teachers obviously, and also the year groups are separated so they don’t mix with other children,” says Simon.

Rosa Hafoka adds: “On the beach, we have people controlling the number of people on the beach. Then inside the restaurants and bars, we need to wear the masks.”

Keen on sports, their son Malakai is happy to start rugby again. “We can play without masks. And before we had to play touch; now we play contact.”

Earlier restrictions meant rugby games had to be played with masks. Photo: Supplied
Earlier restrictions meant rugby games had to be played with masks. Photo: Supplied

Over in the USA playing American football are members of Hawaiian Tongans, the Keanaaina family in San Francisco.

With six sons, the two eldest, Moni and Kingston, play football for the local high school St Francis Lancers.

pacific families - The Keanaaina family in the US. Photo: Supplied
The Keanaaina family in the US. Photo: Supplied

Along with his brothers, Kaimani couldn’t wait to go out to restaurants once last year’s lockdown had eased.

“The restaurants now they’re open, we almost go every day,” laughs Kaimani and his family.

Even so, when out and about, mother of the boys Iona Keanaaina highlights: “There are areas that are not required to wear masks anymore. They were saying churches aren’t required.”

Husband Keala adds: “For large events they require that you show you are fully vaccinated, so you’ll show proof of vaccination — a vaccination passport or card.”

In the UK, two members of the Swan family caught Covid, luckily with no severe symptoms.

“Steph and Jacob actually had Covid in July. A couple of people came down with it in his class in the last week of school,” says dad Gerald.

“Well, I had a little headache at first and then a bit of a cough, and that was it really. But I actually locked down in my room for four days,” says 10-year-old Jacob.

Mother Stephanie recalls: “He had a bit of a temperature for a day or so, and then he was fine.”

“We just missed out on the second jab when we came down with it.”

“It was ok, just a headache really. It lasted about three days. It made me feel tired. Other than that, it felt like the flu really,” says Stephanie.

pacific families - Swan family in the United Kingdom. Photo: Supplied
The Swan family in the United Kingdom. Photo: Supplied

All those who are eligible in these families are fully vaccinated, and while Covid continues to impact their lives, they’re all looking forward to the festive season.

Simon Hafoka is looking forward to having friends and family around to celebrate.

“That’s not a problem. There are no restrictions on how many people can gather together. Before there were,” says Simon.

The Keanaaina and Swan families are looking forward to having presents under the Christmas tree this year.

“I hope so. I think what’s different for us too is inflation. So because distribution has been impacted by Covid-related issues, everything is just more expensive now,” says Keala.

For the Swans in the UK, youngest son Charlie just hopes Santa doesn’t have Covid.

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