Extra Government support for Pacific communities at forefront of Covid-19 fight

  • Hon Jenny Salesa

The Government is prioritising support for Pacific families and communities with the announcement today that $19.5m will go towards increasing the resourcing and capacity of those working to combat this virus, Associate Minister of Health Jenny Salesa says.

“This second outbreak of COVID-19 is mainly in the Auckland region, where more than two thirds of New Zealand’s Pacific population live. The proximity and connection of this outbreak to Pacific communities has required an urgent and a locally targeted response alongside our national strategy.

“We’ve seen a rapid mobilising of our Pacific health workforce in response to this latest outbreak. By Pacific for Pacific health providers and the Auckland DHBs ably led by the Chief Executive of Counties Manukau DHB have worked diligently to address issues and to do whatever it takes to meet the task at hand in an integrated way with wraparound support for people who need it.

“However our teams on the ground are facing high levels of demand beyond what anyone could have anticipated and it is unlikely to be the last situation we’re going to need to mobilise for in our ongoing work to limit the effects and spread of COVID-19,” Jenny Salesa said.

“This package not only ensures those on the frontline have the capacity, support and resources they need to meet the current challenge, it also ensures we continue to be prepared to respond rapidly and effectively to any future instances of community outbreak.

“In addition to having larger than average family sizes, higher incidences of over-crowding and damp living conditions, our Pacific people are more commonly employed in many of our frontline, essential workforces. 

“Many Pacific people are employed in hospitality, as health care workers, cleaners, at our airports and seaports as well as residential and homecare support, supermarket and security staff.

“Essential workers are at much greater risk of exposure to COVID-19. When you combine this with the living circumstances of many Pacific people, you have a potential catalyst for rapid transmission of the virus.

“We are working closely across the health system and the Auckland region to ensure this does not happen. Today’s announcement increases our chance of success.”

This funding package will be used to deliver on five key priority areas, with an emphasis on increasing the outreach and support to Pacific communities:

  1. Enabling Pacific health and disability service providers in Auckland to meet the increased demand for their testing and wraparound support services;
  2. Enabling Auckland metro DHBs (led by Counties Manukau) to sustain and expand their mobile outreach services and Pacific case management model (which now includes pathways for working with churches) that was established under the initial Pacific Response Package;
  3. Establishing an enhanced Pacific priority outreach service as part of the National Close Contact Service (NCCS). This will be a specialised, priority mobile service which can be deployed to find, spot-test, and provide wraparound assessments for Pacific close contacts which cannot be traced through the main NCCS processes;
  4. Bringing together a group of leading Pacific researchers and health care providers to analyse current intelligence and data on the Pacific experience of COVID -19, and use this to inform current and future policy and service delivery; and
  5. Establishing a flexible pool of funding to assist disability support services and their Pacific COVID-19 response.

“Every New Zealander has a stake in this - if we fail in one part of society, we fail everywhere.

“I’m delighted to see the government prioritising the support of those who need it most COVID-19 is the problem and people working together uniting against the virus is the solution – we have done it before and I believe we can do so again by facing the challenge together,” Jenny Salesa said.