“An informed community is an empowered community”

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News that the recent wave of the Covid-19 outbreak has mainly affected Pacific Island individuals has prompted senior Pasifika Medical Association member, Dr Colin Tukuitonga, to call for more families to get tested, adhere to health guidelines and block out any negative racial comments and misinformation that is being shared about the virus.

Last week an Auckland family of four tested positive for Covid-19 through community transmission, prompting the government to return Auckland to Alert Level 3 restrictions and the rest of the country to Alert Level 2. Since then, there’s been more than 30 further cases reported, with up to seventy-five per cent identified as being Pacific.

“Our worst fears are coming into play. There’s been a huge amount of concern within the Pasifika community about how many of our own people are testing positive in this most recent outbreak. Many are going through the emotions of fear, worry and anxiety as they come to terms that the virus is back,” says Dr Tukuitonga, who also chairs the Pacific Expert Advisory Group to the Associate Minister of Health.

To stop the spread, he strongly encourages the community to follow the advice given by the Ministry of Health.

“There are two important messages. One is to encourage everyone who shows symptoms of Covid-19 and their contacts, to get tested straight away. The other is to follow the restrictions of level three; to stay home, to avoid large groups, to wash your hands and wear a mask each time you go outside.”

He says many Pacific churches in Auckland are being proactive and setting up Covid testing stations and organisations, like Pasifika Futures, are offering additional support to help families. He also supports the advice that the Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, gave to the country yesterday when he insisted the latest Covid-19 statistics are not a bad reflection on the Pacific community.

“The problem is the virus and the people are the solution. In the first wave, Pacific people were not as badly affected but we are now at high risk with this current cluster. There is no reason to be embarrassed, there should not be a stigma attached to it. The people who have been tested and are positive are actually doing everyone a favour because it’s alerting everyone that there is a serious virus circulating in our communities, especially in Auckland.”

He says that the community need to look after each other and avoid reading and sharing any misinformation and rumors about the virus.                          

“We have to appeal to people’s good sense. We need to stop sharing conspiracy theories and racist remarks especially if the information is not accurate and being harmful to people with Covid-19.”

Dr Tukuitonga was on TVNZ’s Breakfast program this morning and reinforced this message for the Pacific and wider New Zealand community as he asserted, “An informed community is an empowered community…Follow the advice – the official advice, ignore the noise, get tested, stay home, avoid large gatherings. We’ve been over this before and we can do it again”.

#pmafamily #pmaunite Date: Monday 17 August 2020