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Māori health providers wary as borders soften

Singing, tears and hugs abound at Auckland International Airport as people reunited today after a long wait for international borders to open.

The first wave of visitors from 60 visa waivered countries arrived but some Māori health providers are concerned about the visitors from overseas.

Ngāti Wai chief executive Huhana Lyndon has been at the forefront of the Covid response. She’s concerned as there are still Covid in the community, and this could add to a stretched workforce in the area.

“Kei roto i te iwi etahi āwangawanga e pā ana ki te hunga tūruhi e puta mai ana nā te tini o te mate kei waenganui i ngā hapori me ngā kāinga.”

“The iwi also have a few concerns with tourists arriving because of the Covid-19  cases in our homes and communities,” she said.

As winter looms, Māori health providers are still trying to get booster numbers up and, with the threat of new variants, some organisations are being innovative in how they deliver their services.

Manurewa Narae chief executive Takutaimoana Kemp is committed to working smarter.

Vaccinations and immunisations one-stop-shop

“So what we've done now is merged all our vaccinations and immunisations together. We still run a vaccination centre. It's more a drive-through now, so we are prepared if there's another spike,” she said.

In Northland, just over 55% of eligible Māori have received their booster but Lyndon is observing a decline in whānau turning up to receive their booster, something that's also been seen in Manurewa.

“Kua tino taka ngā kaute o te whānau e puta mai ana. Ia wiki e whakatū tonu ana o mātou tīma i era o ngā momo kaupapa. Engari ko te aronga inaianei, he karanga ki te iwi - kia rite!”

“The statistics for whānau showing up to be vaccinated have dropped. Every week we still have events (to vaccinate) but now we're warning our people to get ready.”

With the relaxation of Covid-19 rules, Kemp says her communities are being complacent.

“Whānau have become a lot more relaxed about Covid restrictions. I guess we all are really. Because we're in the orange we're allowed to have events,” she said

Kemp says because Covid has been the main focus, child immunisations took a back seat.

“We need to encourage our parents to get their tamariki immunised for measles mumps and rubella, those childhood immunisations from six weeks onwards. It hasn't been the priority.”