The highly contagious Delta variant of Covid-19 is “seated” in Auckland’s gang communities and among rough sleepers, the Ministry of Health has told MPs today.
“If we think about the current outbreak, how it seems to have seated itself in a gang environment and the homeless, these are people that are less likely to be trusting of the health system,” pacific health director Gerardine Clifford-Lidstone said at today’s online select committee briefing on the Government’s response to Covid-19.
“Finding people within these communities that can promote the vaccine will be very important,” she told MPs.
“These are things we’ve started to work on.”
Meanwhile it has emerged today that a person infected with Covid-19 was at an Auckland shopping complex two days ago.
The Ministry of Health has revealed one location of interest today.
A person with the virus was at the Kelston Mall in West Auckland on Monday afternoon for half an hour.
The affected time is between 2pm and 2.30pm.
Last week it was revealed a prospect for the Hells Angels had contracted Covid-19, the third gang in Auckland to be affected by the virus.
The positive test followed a patched member of Black Power becoming infected and spreading it to children living in his home just outside Kaiaua on the Hauraki Plains.
The tiny settlement was subject to a Section 70 order imposed by director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield which forced residents into a snap lockdown.
Health officials had earlier revealed several members of the Mongrel Mob had also caught the virus, with those living at a South Auckland gang pad forced into isolation after a young woman discharged herself from Middlemore Hospital and returned there while awaiting a Covid swab result. She tested positive.
Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said a South Auckland boarding house that provided transitional housing was the focus of a new sub-cluster as cases emerged among residents.
Clifford-Lidstone said the community could be broken down into three groups: people who are committed to getting the Covid-19 vaccine, a group that is undecided so they need to have “trusted people” they can go to with concerns, and a group that is “reluctant”.
“This is a group we need to put more work into, probably put some investment into people that they trust,” she said.
The committee also discussed how a small group of religious leaders among the Pacific community are promoting anti-vaccination messages, with some arguing that it was about “individual right”.
Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio said they are “fixated” on it and are using social media to promote their ideology. “I don’t have time for them,” he told the committee.
“Throw that stuff away, block it, delete it, don’t bother passing it around.”
Sio said the vaccine is about protecting everyone’s right to life.
No one can change the mind of an anti-vaxxer, Clifford-Lidstone said, but work can be done with people “that think they are anti vaxxers, but are not really, they just need more information”.
Other church leaders were praised for a playing a key role by engaging their communities and leading the way in getting Covid-19 vaccinations.
Since the Delta community outbreak, more than 200,000 Pacific peoples have received their first dose of the vaccine, and 113,000 are fully vaccinated.
Sio said the Government is working to vaccinate RSE workers in Hawke’s Bay and Canterbury regions and also targeting Pacific disabled communities.
Hawke’s Bay has the highest vaccination rates among Pacific peoples in New Zealand, the committee heard.
Covid-19 affects three gangs
Earlier this month, the Herald reported that three gangs had been affected by the virus.
Mongrel Mob members in Auckland were isolating after a young woman discharged herself from Middlemore Hospital and went to the gang’s pad where she lives while waiting for a Covid-19 test result.
A patched member of Black Power caught Covid-19 and then spread it to children living in his home just outside Kaiaua on the Hauraki Plains last week.
A prospect for the Hells Angels became infected. A Herald source confirmed the Auckland chapter prospect of the Hells Angels, Brentwood Ave, was taken to the quarantine facility at Jet Park.
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