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As the Covid-19 daily cases continue to rise it’s forced many families in South Auckland to isolate. Samoan church minister Reverend Victor Pouesi is concerned this will be difficult for many Pasifika families who are already dealing with overcrowding at home. This has prompted the E.F.K.S Māngere East Puaseisei church to offer up their facilities to parishioners.
“We can actually isolate well, depending on the needs of each family because each family will need their own space so we can divide this into two so we can have at least 30 people down here and 30 upstairs,” Pouesi says.
The church hall was recently occupied by 14 boys from the congregation who contracted omicron after attending a festival last month.
One of them is Gaioka Joshua Ali’ifa’alogo who experienced minor symptoms for two days but is thankful he was able to isolate with his church brothers.
“It’s so good for the mental wellbeing like, I don’t know how I would feel if I was to isolate by myself but I think having family or church members to isolate with would keep yourself sane for the remainder of the 10 days you have to isolate,” Ali’ifa’alogo says.
He and the others are fully vaccinated and they spent over 2 weeks camping at the church.
However, they are not alone. Infection rates are higher in the Counties Manukau area compared to the other District Health Board areas.
The infectious nature of omicron variant has church members worried.
“We just have to be mindful of our parents who are elderly and they also have medical issues or medical history that we need to be aware of and that makes them more vulnerable towards this sickness or pandemic that we are going through,” says Eline Sanonu.
Early in the week government announced a funding boost for Maori and Pacific health providers and community organisations. A sum of $18 million will be set aside for the Pacific Aotearoa community outreach initiative through the Ministry for Pacific peoples (MPP).
Pacific Peoples and Associate Health Minister Aupito William Sio is glad the additional funding can help community groups, especially churches who are offering their space for isolation.
“I have full confidence that when they step up with those kinds initiatives that they’ll be able to access that funding,” Sio says.
Reverend Pouesi welcomes the support from government as he has also experienced covid and most of his congregation of 90 families are going through self-isolation.
“I believe that this is part of our calling as a church and we always preach about love and preach about helping our neighbours and I think this is the most practical part of doing that,” Pouesi says.
“I believe that it’s in our nature and our theology to do just that and if we have the opportunity by God to do so why not.”