National | Freedom Day

Better protections for Māori and Pasifika before 'Freedom Day' - Māori pandemic group

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Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā says there must be better protections in place, particularly for Māori and Pasifika, before the government loosens restrictions and declares ‘Freedom Day’.

The national Māori pandemic group said in a statement that it supports Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt's view that loosening restrictions once the general population hits 90 per cent vaccination will potentially devastate Māori communities, whose vaccine uptake has been slower than the general population’s.

"We have been saying to government for a long time, that the vaccination programme it has designed is failing Māori,” co-leader Teresa Wall said. “We have been saying that equity for Maori in the programme is pivotal."

"[W]hile others have given a target percentage we have not, we have never given a percentage because at whatever percentage Maori will be more vulnerable, and we believe everyone who can be, should be, vaccinated."

Despite the government's announcement of a $120 million fund to accelerate Māori vaccination rates, the group said insufficient resources had been devoted to protecting Māori.

"The third article of the Treaty guarantees Crown protection of Māori and grants them equal rights and privileges. But we’ve had insufficient resources and funding thus far to protect Māori, especially in isolated communities. Māori health outcomes remain inequitable, which is potentially disastrous during this pandemic."

Wall said they did not want to see a repeat of the 1918 flu pandemic, when health authorities of the time showed insufficient foresight, leaving many Māori with little to counter the virus.

“It would be tragic if government neglect once again led to a similar inequitable outcome, more than a century after that disaster. We would have learned nothing from history,” she said.

The group, which released their statement Friday afternoon, said to date 33 per cent of all cases in the Delta outbreak have been Māori and 39 per cent Pasifika, accounting for 26 per cent and 52 per cent of hospitalisations respectively.

“These are sobering figures and give some insight into the impact Māori and Pasifika are likely to experience if restrictions are suddenly lifted.”

Wall said Māori needed time and resources to get their vaccination rates up.

“We know we can’t live with restrictions forever, but before we declare ‘Freedom Day’ there must be better protections in place for everyone – particularly for Māori and Pasifika.”