Taranaki health officials fear that low vaccination rates in the province will make Delta’s arrival a perfect storm for Maori.
As of earlier this week, only 24 percent of Taranaki Maori were fully vaccinated, while just under 40 percent of the general population had both strokes, two of the lowest rates in the country.
The Alert Level 3 cap now faces the Taranaki border in Mōkau, where the iwi are working with the police to coordinate checkpoints limiting access to the province.
But essential workers and those deemed to have real reasons to travel have still made their way to this day.
Dr Jonathan Jarman, Heath’s Taranaki Medical Officer, said that it had always been inevitable that Covid-19 would eventually enter the region and that that was bad news for Maori.
“It’s really a perfect storm of risk factors like low vaccination coverage, large bubbles, more people with health conditions that make them more at risk and more likely to go into hospital with serious illness.”
Dr. Jarman said there were only two ways out of this pandemic: People get immunity through a vaccine or they get the disease.
“And this disease is really contagious. It is going to haunt people who are not vaccinated and it is going to make a large number of those people sick.
“I mean that a third of people have at least one symptom for more than six months and then there are people who end up being respiratory cripples.”
Dr. Jarman said he had not yet made a model of what a Delta outbreak in Taranaki would mean in terms of the number of cases and hospitalizations.
Meanwhile, Nga iwi or Taranaki is working with the police to monitor the border south of Mōkau, while Waitako iwi Ngati Maniapoto is doing the same in the north.
The president of Te Kotahitanga or Te Atiawa, Liana Poutu, said that people called the checkpoints that were run by the police.
“We have not pushed for our people to leave, at this time, in charge of those checkpoints, due to our low vaccination rate because we do not want to put them at risk there.”
Poutu said the spread of Covid-19 outside Auckland was a wake-up call for people to get vaccinated.
“You know that we are concerned that if it reaches our community, our whānau, the fact that we are under-vaccinated and also have underlying health problems does not bode well for our people.”
New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom didn’t think Delta could be left out.
“No, I don’t think so. I think if we are good with our border control we could keep it out for another two or three weeks and that will only allow us to increase vaccination numbers because it is a concern that we are the lowest region in New Zealand.” .
He said those rates were important in reducing the impact of any outbreak.
“The big concern is that our healthcare system could be overwhelmed and then our medical professionals have to make these really horrible decisions about who to treat when they have limited resources and too many patients.”
Usually a beacon of optimism, Taranaki Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Arun Chaudhari also resigned himself to Delta’s arrival in the province.
“As we can see, it is inevitable and we just have to make sure that at this stage we do as many vaccines as possible.”
“The business community wants to see action and they are obviously preparing for the inevitability of the Delta virus being in the Taranaki community.”
The government is due to review the level 3 border on Monday.