Despite a disconnect between the public health system and the Pacific community, vital grassroots work is underway to reach out to contacts in the Covid-19 outbreak that the system has overlooked.
The Delta variant of Covid-19 makes the extensive and demanding work required to track a contact outbreak even more difficult, and the events of the past week found New Zealand’s tracking system under immense pressure.
About 50 percent of Covid-19 infections come from the Pacific community, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. Public health messages about vaccines have not always been effective in this community, and the same applies to messages about how people should respond immediately to the current outbreak.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was pressured on whether the outbreak within the Pacific community could have been prevented if the government properly engaged with the community.
“There has been communication all the time, but of course if we receive comments that something needs to be improved, we take them into account and, of course, we will analyze the situation to continue improving at all times”, Ardern. said.
“One thing I will say is that we have individuals divided into multiple congregations. I think that has raised some complications, but it is no excuse, we should always try to do the best we can to make sure that we are providing information to those.” they need it as quickly as possible. “
Catching those who fall through the system
A Pacific health and social service provider, The Fono, is helping to reach contacts in the outbreak that the public health system has missed.
There are a variety of reasons why some people may not have responded to the Auckland health authorities’ contact tracing efforts, and not everyone has equal access to the media or sources of information. Communications from health authorities can be confusing and overwhelming for some people.
When the public health system has exhausted its own options for a response to your contact communications, you can enlist the help of The Fono, whose Community Finder project is taking a direct and personal approach to work.
According to a Whanau Ora browser with The Fono, Harry Risale, when he goes to a house, is wearing protective gear and approaches with caution.
“First I make myself known, and if they are there, then the information that they have to contact public health will be related, and they have to be in communication. It is important for safety, not only for the individual, the family, but mainly for the whole community. “
Risale said she tried to make sure people were aware of the status of the outbreak and the risk it poses to everyone, as well as the importance of testing.
He said that when it came to responding to communication about the outbreak, confusion and fear were factors that had held some people back.
“A lot of people try to contact them and they see these random numbers and text messages.
“I let them know that you have to contact public health, they will give you the correct information, what to do, if you need to isolate yourself.”
Risale said in recent days that he was able to communicate with a household and then connect it to the health system, resulting in the identification of a positive case of Covid.
“They were very happy to communicate and make sure to follow the public health advice. And if they need to be taken to a center, they are willing to do it too.”
A spokesman for the Auckland Assembly of God congregations, Jerome Mika, said they expected between 900 and 1,000 church members to be tested.
A testing station specifically for AOG members has been established in Māngere, which is the focal point of a major group in the outbreak, led by Southseas Healthcare and The Cause Collective.
Jerome Mika said congregations have cooperated with the church leaders’ call to get tested, and dismissed any suggestion that the church community was not cooperating with the Health Ministry.
“There were only 500 in that church and we couldn’t track it down, so we’re doing the conservative thing and getting everyone here today and tomorrow,” he explained.
“People were not resistant to getting tested and a large part of our church community has done it once or twice, but they have come back to make sure there is no question that everyone has been tested.”
The Pacific community has the highest testing rate in the country to date, and an important part of that success is the people involved in tracing contracts who remain essential conduits in the battle to contain the virus.