Plans to reopen COVID-19 in New Zealand leave Maori exposed – .

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Plans to reopen COVID-19 in New Zealand leave Maori exposed – .


WELLINGTON, Dec.2 (Reuters) – As New Zealand prepares to ease its controls over the COVID-19 pandemic and global isolation after nearly two years, the health risks of its under-vaccinated indigenous Maori pose a challenge to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Some of the world’s toughest pandemic measures enforced by the South Pacific nation eased on Friday, with businesses reopening nationwide after Ardern’s government abandoned its elimination strategy in the face of the contagious variant of the Delta.

National border restrictions in the Auckland pandemic epicenter are due to end in mid-December, and international border restrictions will gradually ease from January.

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But while businesses and New Zealand’s European ethnic majority population broadly welcome the reopening ahead of the Christmas break, some Maori fear further marginalization.

“It seems the Maori are the most expendable in this country,” Maori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer told Reuters. “The Prime Minister intends to open before Christmas, even if it is to the detriment of the Maori. “

Maori, who make up about 15% of New Zealand’s 5 million people, now have the highest proportion of new COVID-19 cases, averaging around 200 per day.

Like many indigenous peoples, the Maori fare less well than the rest of the population when it comes to measures of health and well-being. Only around 69% of eligible Maori are fully immunized, compared to almost 90% in the rest of New Zealand.

Some community leaders attribute the low uptake to the government’s immunization strategy, which included prioritizing vaccines for the elderly. About 70% of Maori are under 40 years old.

This, coupled with institutional racism, great mistrust of government, and poor access to health care for Maori living in small towns, meant that many were slow to get vaccinated or simply left behind. , according to Maori leaders.

“We suffer all the systemic failures just by being Māori,” Ngarewa-Packer said.

RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT

Maori are increasingly worried about the new Omicron variant, but has yet to be seen in New Zealand, nor has it impacted plans to reopen.

New Zealand will adopt a new “traffic light system” from Friday with regions set to red, orange and green zones based on vaccination rates and COVID-19 cases.

Some Maori leaders have criticized the plan, likening it to the traffic light system in the popular Netflix series “Squid Game,” where players who lose matches are killed.

“The Prime Minister says no one will be left behind. What she means is that no one will be left behind except the Maori, ”another Maori party co-leader Rawiri Waititi said in an Instagram post with a photo of the Maori party. Squid Game show.

New Zealand emerged virtually unscathed from the first wave of infections last year. Ardern said the government took into account the vulnerability of the Maori early in its response to the pandemic.

“We knew this would have a disproportionate impact on our Maori and Pacific population, which is why we took an approach to reduce the impact as much as possible and this led to our elimination strategy,” Ardern said. in an interview with Reuters.

The vaccination rates of older Maori are in line with those of the general population, she said.

“These are our young people in parts of the country where we haven’t had these higher rates,” she added.

The government has stepped up efforts to speed up Maori vaccinations, including by establishing Maori pandemic response groups – measures, critics say, were too few and too late.

Now, as 1.7 million Aucklanders who have been locked up for almost 100 days prepare to lay down for the summer recess, some Maori leaders are taking action to minimize the impact.

In Northland, a popular holiday region with a large Maori population, Indigenous leaders are working with police to set up checkpoints to prevent unvaccinated visitors from entering.

“I think the reality is that Maori are worried – the whanau (community) are afraid of what they see coming and they don’t see anything good coming,” said Hone Harawira, former parliamentarian and founder of Te Tai Tokerau. Border Control at Newshub’s AM. Spectacle.

“They want to know that their people are going to be protected first and foremost. “

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Editing by Lincoln Feast.

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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