Tagata Pasifika The Pacific voice on New Zealand television since 1987

Still some concern over traffic light system

John Pulu | Presenter/ Reporter/Director | Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

New Zealand moved into the Covid-19 protection framework, or traffic light system, on Friday. Auckland and parts of the North Island moved to the red setting, while the South Island and rest of the North Island moved to orange. So what does this mean for Pasifika people as we head into the festive season?

The traffic light system signals the end of alert levels.

“I think with the traffic lights, it gets you more freedom, you know. If you get vaccinated and you want to go anywhere, it’s a green light for you,” one Ōtara man says.

“It’s giving us more freedom as well to move around, celebrate with our families, get together with our families and also going into church,” says one woman.

At the same time, there’s still some confusion.

“As a Samoan and as one who usually goes to church, we’ve obviously been online for a long time. So with the traffic light, it’s really hard to understand what it means for us as a church in terms of what we can do and what we can’t do,” one woman says.

Another woman says: “It’s a bit of a worry because there are still a high number of cases that we’re experiencing every day, so it is a bit of a worry for me and my family.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the settings for the country under the new system last Monday, putting the whole country in either red or orange for at least the next two weeks.

Jacinda Ardern announced details of the traffic light system last Monday.
Jacinda Ardern announced details of the traffic light system last Monday.

“Cabinet will review settings again and provide an update before the summer break on Monday the 13th of December,” she says.

“We will then hold for roughly a month to allow us to see the impact of the shift and allow the settings to bed in. They will then be reviewed again in the week of Monday the 17th of January.”

At the red setting, your ‘My Vaccine Pass’ gets you everywhere, but number limits of 100 apply to most activities. You’ll also be able to see family and friends in their home again.

At orange, the big change is there are no gathering limits.

For the unvaccinated, access to certain activities will be limited, and gathering sizes are lower across all levels.

Pacific health providers welcome the change but with some caution.

“I think people are a bit tired of where things have been, and they want to have a change; this would be a good way to move forward,” says Dr Siro Fuata’i at Bader Drive Doctors in Māngere.

traffic light system Dr Siro Fuata’i at Bader Drive Doctors in Mangere
Dr Siro Fuata’i. Photo: John Pulu, Tagata Pasifika

“With Christmas coming along, you know we all like to have big feasts and we like to meet with our families, but it’s risky. Covid is still out there, and everyone is at risk of getting Covid,” says Dr Vanisi Prescott from the Stoddard Road Medical Centre in Mt Roskill.

Getting vaccinated remains the best way to protect against Covid-19, and so far, around 90% of eligible Pasifika people have had at least one vaccine dose. The race is now on to get them double vaccinated by Christmas.

“In the last few weeks, a lot of Pacific Islands people have embraced the vaccination process, in particular the youth; those are the groups that have been sitting on the fence but have now come forward. And I think it’s a lot clearer now from the ministry and from the government what you can do and you can’t do if you’re vaccinated or not,” Dr Fuata’i says.

traffic light system Dr Vanisi Prescott. Photo: John Pulu, Tagata Pasifika
Dr Vanisi Prescott. Photo: John Pulu, Tagata Pasifika

In the meantime, doctors say it’s important to also continue the practices which have worked to keep Covid at bay so far.

“Especially for our people who are vulnerable, make sure that if you are going to be gathering, QR code – make sure you scan, making sure you wear your mask and important as well is the 1m social distancing,” says Dr Prescott.

“If you are sick, please be honest about it. Tell your family members and make sure you stay home and then go get a Covid test. Although there’s all this ‘opening’, we just need to be cautious and look out for one another.”

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