A dedicated Covid-19 testing center for the largest subset of this outbreak opened today at the Manukau Magpies Rugby League & Sports Club in South Auckland.
Church leaders from 27 Samoa Assembly of God congregations in Auckland, along with Southseas Healthcare and The Cause Collective, organized a new ‘restricted access’ testing center to operate for two days specifically for church members. .
More than 100 cases date back to the Samoa Assembly of God Church in Māngere.
Samoa AOG spokesman Jerome Mika said the Samoan community had cooperated and responded to the idea of getting tested for Covid-19.
“A lot of people who showed up today have been waiting in line since 8:30 am,” Mika said.
“People were not resistant to getting tested and much of our church community has already done it once or twice, but they have come back to make sure there is no question that everyone has been tested.
“We expect between 900 and 1000 people to pass by today.
“We don’t want to be the reason we are locked up. We want Covid-19 to be eliminated and we want to move on,” he said.
Rebecca Toleafoa, a member of the AOG church, worked to make sure all close contacts knew about the new testing center.
Toleafoa fought back tears as she reflected on members of her church community who had tested positive for coronavirus.
“We were all worshiping on Sunday, August 15, not knowing that in our church there was an active case among the congregation, so it has been an emotional moment for all of us.
“My heart goes out to everyone who has tested positive for Covid,” he said.
North Region Health Coordination Center Director and Manukau County Health Executive Director Fepulea’i Margie Apa said the purpose of this testing arrangement is to ensure that the community can be screened in one place close to where they live and that the processing of these tests can be prioritized.
“It actually makes it easier for us to make sure that the evidence that comes from that group takes precedence when it goes through the laboratory processing system. This is something we normally do for any group.”
Apa thanked the Samoan community who came forward today to get tested and assured the public that information on Covid-19 would be provided to the group in Gagana Samoa, or the Samoan language.
“The information will be on how to isolate themselves and where they can call for support, whether it be for food packages or social assistance.”
“We will also reach out to the Samoan community and ask questions about whether any of them were at the exhibition sites and that will help us narrow down and focus our testing program on those who absolutely need to be tested,” he said.
Mika said it was important that the Samoan community be informed about the virus and provided regular updates.
“We have to remember that English is a second language for people in my community, and even during this locked-in time, many of our families use prepaid phones and do not have access to Wi-Fi.
“In terms of access and severity and how fast it has grown, much of our community is not connected to that.
“That is why I acknowledge Southseas Healthcare and The Cause Collective because we have had to use a cultural response, most of the healthcare workers who are tested are Samoan so they speak the language and care about our people in a way that we know better.
“We also communicate with the Ministry of Health to make sure we are all on the same page,” he said.
Tāmaki Makaurau health authorities say there have been record numbers in Covid-19 testing this week.
Since moving to Alert Level 4, City labs have logged over 150,000 community tests, making this the most important week for testing in Greater Auckland.
Of these, almost 28,000 tests have been carried out by communities that identify themselves as one of the eight ethnic groups of the Pacific. This is the highest testing rate per population of any group.