Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Pacific health leader responds to Covid conspiracy theorists – ‘I have no time for these loonies’

Prominent Pacific health specialist Dr Collin Tukuitonga has slammed conspiracy theories suggesting that the current lockdown is part of a governmental agenda.

“I have no time for these loonies,” he said.

“How can anyone believe that the government is deliberately misleading the community – it’s just insane.”

This comes after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement on Tuesday evening that revealed four members of the same family had contracted Covid-19 from an unknown source.

Auckland was subsequently placed in level 3 lockdown the following day while the rest of the country shifted to level 2.

This triggered a flurry of conspiracy theories, including an imputation from National Party deputy leader Gerry Brownlee – that the Government was aware of the new cases well before they were publicly disclosed.

Dr Tukuitonga says given that the cases are from South Auckland, the conspiracy theories have been unhelpful.

“I feel very strongly about it because it does put our community at risk and our [Pacific] communities are very vulnerable – you know when people are vulnerable, they can believe all kinds of stuff.”

Photo: RNZ / Vinay Ranchhod

Further details of the family have since surfaced, including confirmation that it’s a Pasifika family of six.

The four cases include a man in his 50s who worked at Americold, a coolstore facility in Mt Wellington.

His wife, an employee of Finance Now in Central Auckland, also tested positive at a West Auckland GP, which has since closed its doors for a deep clean.

The other two affected, a woman in her 20s and a preschool-aged girl, travelled to and stayed in Rotorua between August 8-11. They also made a day trip to Taupō.

While no close contacts in Rotorua have been identified, they have retraced their steps to identify which places and eateries they visited during their stay.

Today 13 new cases were announced – 10 associated with Americold, two with Finance Now and a Mt Albert Grammar student who is also a close contact of the family.

Dr Tukutuionga says this new outbreak isn’t surprising.

“We will get on top of this cluster no question, but the pattern is likely to be like this for you know – 18 months, 2 years – possibly longer or until at least we have an effective and safe vaccine. In other words this is bound to happen again,” he said.

“So when people talk about post-Covid life, I think that’s somewhat unrealistic; it’s more a case of us learning to live with it and how best do we cope and how best do we protect people.”

He admits, however, that the South Auckland region is not prepared for the lurking threat of community transmission, with many families facing poverty contributing to high rates of chronic disease.

“The concern of course is that we have high proportions of crowded housing of people living in less than ideal conditions, and that’s the kind of thing the virus thrives in, and that’s very important that we attend to these issues as best we can.”

The lockdown is in place until at least midnight Friday but in light of recent developments, Dr Tukuitonga says an extension is highly probable.

“I understand why the Government has done this, but I suspect that it will be longer – how long I don’t know.”

“Like everyone else, I’m hoping that it’s only three days, but somehow I don’t think that’s likely.”

In the meantime, he is urging Pacific communities to remain vigilant by staying home as much as possible and to especially avoid large gatherings.

“This is level 3; we’ve been here before.”

“Try and stay home, but if you have to go out, wear a mask.”

By Anauli Karima Fai’ai

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