Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Covid-19 social media backlash: ‘Can we be more kind, less judgemental?’

RNZ Pacific

Social media users are being urged to practise kindness and tolerance as authorities battle with the re-emergence of Covid-19 in the Pasifika communities in Auckland.

Testing being conducted by health workers at a COVID-19 testing station setup at Eden Park, National Sports Stadium, in Auckland on August 14, 2020.
Photo: AFP

A local Pacific charitable group says it’s unfortunate the family at the centre of the recent outbreak has been subjected to intense scrutiny on social media.

Pasifika Futures director Soana Pamaka is urging communities to remain calm, kind and tolerant towards each other and to comply with the Health Ministry’s requirements.

“Can we be more kind, less judgemental and realise that the coronavirus is going to go where it goes for scientific reasons and not because of any particular ethnic group,” Pamaka said.

Pamaka said people must not panic, adding the group is working closely with the Pasifika Medical Association to help support the most vulnerable in the community.

Outbreak could get messy

Meanwhile, a Pacific health specialist in New Zealand is worried the latest community transmission of Covid-19 in the country “could get very messy”.

As of this morning there were 30 active cases of Covid-19 outside of managed isolation, in the Auckland and Waikato region.

Collin Tukuitonga, the associate dean for the Pacific at the University of Auckland, said the latest cluster was a worry because the source was unknown.

Dr Tukuitonga said community transmission may “decimate” the Pacific, Māori and other low-income communities so it’s important New Zealand gets on top of it smartly.

He also believed complacency had crept in with the country having gone 102 days Covid-19 free.

Students in need of food and warm, safe study spaces

The biggest challenge students at an Auckland school faced during this week’s lockdown were access to food and a nice warm environment for online learning.

Soana Pamaka, is also the principal of Tamaki College and said this need was expected to continue with the government’s announcement on Friday to extend the city’s lockdown due to an outbreak of Covid-19 cases.

Pamaka said while a forced lockdown could be disruptive to the students’ study and social interactions, the decile one school provided online learning and care packages to the children.

She said the school was also working with the education ministry to help equip students better for their home learning.

“The biggest effect for out school was the learning and certainly for our senior students it will have a big impact on their NCEA outcome. But the ministry is keeping in close contact with us,” Pamaka said.

“The biggest impact of the lockdown is the access to food and having a nice, warm environment for online learning, access to online learning and all those things,” she said.

Soana Pamaka.
Soana Pamaka. Photo: Supplied/Pasifika Futures

Soana Pamaka said parents had been encouraged to keep their children at home and to seek the help and support they needed.

Pamaka said people were taking this new wave of cases seriously, “that they need to self-distance, sanitise and be at home”.

She said there was an increasing number of people masking up which was good to see.

“In the last lockdown, there were not a lot of masks sitting around, but I can see alot more people in our community wearing the masks when they’re out.”

Families encourage to reach out for support

Pamaka said she had advised her 600 students and their families that there was support available to them.

“We’ve been in alert level 3 before and what we know is self-distancing, sanitizing, hand washing and staying home works and that’s what we are encouraging our community to do,” she said.

“We have a really good relationship with our whanau and they will always get in touch if they need help.”

Pamaka said when the country went into lockdown in June, the college through its partnership with Pasifika Futures Ltd, was able to provide more than 1000 support food packages of food and learning devices for students and their families.

“Our expectation is if this current lockdown escalates, we will certainly be looking to access more packages and support for our families and students.

“Our young people will also continue to have access to our staff, our counsellors and nurses if need be.”

Police road block in Bombay, Auckland - level 3 in on 12 August
Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Pamaka said while going into lockdown was not ideal, it was critical in order to control the virus.

“For Pacific communities, we are at high risk because of how we like to live – we have our extended family at home and we live with our elderly.

“If just one person gets sick, then it will affect everyone.”

Pamaka also said many of her senior students had taken on the role of contributing to the family income because their parents had lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

She said she was looking at ways to support students so they could balance their family responsibilities with their schoolwork.

Auckland will remain in level 3 lockdown until 26 August.

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