Border checkpoints led by Iwi are being deployed in Northland today.
The region is now at alert level 3 after a Covid-infected Auckland woman tested positive in Whangārei.
The new restrictions will remain in effect until 11:59 pm on Tuesday and will be reviewed in the Cabinet on Monday.
The woman has not given a reason for being in Te Tai Tokerau and has not been open about her movements.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins does not rule out dropping the charges against the woman, in an attempt to reach an agreement on her cooperation.
He said the woman has not provided information to health officials and will consider options that could encourage her to be more open.
Hipkins said that sometimes taking a hard line makes someone less likely to cooperate, and if there are things officials could do to help her be more open, then the government will consider that.
Te Tai Tokerau Border Control spokesperson Hone Harawira said he is exhausted and frustrated that the situation could have been handled better.
He said he’s upset about what the woman has done.
“But when you look at it, the reality is that someone built a prison and one in three windows was left open, don’t blame the prisoner for escaping.”
Harawira said the Crown established the whole system and they have failed the country’s most unvaccinated rural Maori population time and time again.
He said that if the government had let iwi into its decision-making process and provided information, the problem could have been addressed before it got worse.
“For months we have been telling the Crown that it must allow iwi and border control to be at the top of the table in making decisions about things like border controls and exemptions and medical information, the decisions that help save the life of the people. “
Northland Covid-19 disaster waiting to happen – Harawira
Harawira said the North is a Covid-19 disaster waiting to happen.
He said Northland would not have had to be at alert level 3 if the government had better handled border controls, the waiver process and the way decisions were made with the people of Te Tai Tokerau.
“Classic example on August 17, Auckland goes up to level 4 and they decide to leave the back door open for 48 hours, with no controls of any kind, and within a week of that decision 180 cases of Delta appeared in Tai Tokerau, all of them from Auckland, all of them as a result of a government decision to allow that back door to stay open. They should have slammed it shut at the time, but they didn’t. “
Harawira said Te Tai Tokerau Maori live in some of the most disadvantaged communities in the country with poor housing standards and long waiting lists for state housing.
“We are a Covid disaster waiting for it to happen, uh, with all the comorbidities increasing, they are endemic within the population of Tai Tokerau.
“My concern is trying to keep it as far north as possible, that means pushing back, pushing back, pushing back and then slamming the door.”
Low vaccination rate must be lifted
Harawira said the only way to live with Covid-19 is to get vaccination rates of up to 90 percent, but currently Te Tai Tokerau has low vaccination rates.
“Maori will die quickly and early if they are not vaccinated so I have to pick up the game, but change the game to try to involve more and more people in the process of fighting this Covid at all levels.”
National Party spokesman Dr. Shane Reti, a practicing physician and part of the Ngāti Wai healthcare provider’s vaccine team, agrees that vaccination is a challenge in the region.
“In the target group across the country, who are Maori under 40, we have the lowest vaccination rate in that target group and that’s one of our risk factors right there.
“This is why a coronavirus coming to Northland is a challenge for us because our vaccination rates are so low.”
Dr Reti said that even before Covid-19, the registered national immunization indicated that around 12 percent of Northland parents refused to vaccinate their children and that has been amplified by coronavirus.
“We have a high rate of vaccine vacillation here in Northland and that’s one of our challenges.”
Reti believes a door-to-door approach will be needed for more people to get vaccinated and primary health care providers should be involved, as people already have confidence in their GPs, and building trust is key to ending doubts about vaccines.
Harawira hopes whānau stays home
Harawira believes Auckland should have been placed at alert level 4 last week when they had a peak of 45 cases in one day.
He said he is aware that the whānau in Auckland are making it difficult.
Harawira said that he hopes the fact that Northland is now at level 3 will send a signal for whānau to stay home.
Today there will be a border control with police in Waiomio along with mobile border patrols with police and Te Tai Tokerau border control over the weekend.
“We will do our best to be as visible as possible and just send a clear message to people: if you don’t need to move, go home.”
Harawira said that anyone from Te Tai Tokerau who sees whānau from Auckland or Whangārei should tell him to turn around and go back.
If they refuse, call the police because they shouldn’t be in Te Tai Tokerau and pose a threat to the wider community, Harawira said.
What else can Northland do now?
Dr. Reti said the district health board has already increased the number of sites to get tested for Covid-19 and hopefully the saliva test will be available as an option because that will increase the number of tests that will be done. can perform.
He said the vaccination rate is then being improved and adhering to public health measures such as masking and social distancing.
“These three things will determine the outlook for Northland in the days ahead, the next few weeks, and possibly even the next few months – how well we can do together as a community.”
Dr. Reti said that he has been questioning the Northland DHB for several months about its ability to deal with a Covid outbreak.
“Do they have ICU beds, ICU nurses, ventilators, isolation rooms, negative pressure rooms?
“My feeling is that we could deal with a smaller outbreak and bigger than that, we would have problems.”
Dr Reti said that on September 1 in Auckland, which has the largest number of ICU beds in the country, there were eight active cases and they had to call 30 nurses.
“So eight cases was almost enough to bring down the Auckland ICU; it doesn’t take much … to overwhelm resources.”