Ashley Bloomfield has slammed Kiwis making racist remarks towards the Pasifika community affected by the current Covid-19 outbreak, while there are now over 200 community cases of Delta

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says “frankly gutless” racism directed towards Pasifika New Zealanders caught up in the current outbreak must stop, while praising community leaders’ efforts to help testing, tracing and vaccination efforts.

New Zealand’s latest Covid-19 cluster has grown to more than 200 cases, with health officials identifying 62 new community cases of the Delta variant in the last day.

Announcing the latest figures, Bloomfield said that while the growth in daily cases remained steady, it was not exponential – a sign the country’s lockdown was serving its purpose.

“We do know that our actions to slow and spread the virus will begin to see a slowing of those numbers increasing, and indeed the fact that the rate of increase is not exponential is explicitly because we have Alert Level 4 in place.”

Bloomfield said there were 63 new positive cases of Covid-19 – just one of which was in managed isolation and quarantine – taking the overall tally of the current Delta outbreak to 210 cases.

Of those, 198 were in Auckland and 12 were in Wellington – an increase of just one case for the capital city, which was a close contact of an existing case.

The majority of cases involved linkages between households or workplaces, but there were some identified due to their presence at a location of interest.

There were currently 12 people in hospital with Covid-19, an increase of three since Tuesday, of which 11 were associated with the current outbreak.

Cluster racism ‘frankly gutless’ – Bloomfield

Bloomfield thanked Auckland’s Pasifika community for their efforts to support contact tracing, testing and vaccination, with a large subcluster connected to the Assembly of God Church (AOG) of Samoa in Mangere.

Reiterating a social media post from the Ministry of Health criticising racist remarks being directed towards some of those affected by the current outbreak, he said: “This is disappointing, and frankly gutless.”

“Right since the start of this pandemic, it is our Pacific communities that have had the highest testing rates of any ethnicity, and particularly in our outbreaks we see the testing rates go up very high, so they’re incredibly responsive to the request to get tested.” 

Bloomfield also defended the ministry’s response to concerns that five Aucklanders may have received an injection of saline solution, rather than the Covid-19 vaccine, last month as reported by RNZ.

It was only a possibility and not a certainty that vaccinators used the wrong vial, but immediate protocol changes had been made to ensure there was more frequent checking and reconciliation of vials, while labels were now put on syringes once they had been drawn up for use.

Bloomfield said the ministry was seeking expert advice on whether or not to offer people another shot, given it was possible some could get a third dose as a result of the initial mistake.

Everyone who had been vaccinated at the clinic in question on the day would receive a letter within the next 24 hours, with further follow-up discussions about the next steps.

“Nobody wants to be in lockdown and the best way that we can return to enjoying the freedoms that we have had for much of the last year, is to get very high levels of vaccination.”

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said more than 80,000 New Zealanders had received a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday, in yet another daily record, while almost 50,000 daily tests had been carried out.

With vaccination now open to Kiwis aged 30 and older, Hipkins said it was important for those high rates to continue as that would help to limit further lockdowns in future.

“Nobody wants to be in lockdown and the best way that we can return to enjoying the freedoms that we have had for much of the last year, is to get very high levels of vaccination.

“So we do need to shift from things like our border restrictions and lockdown measures being our main lines of defence to vaccination being a much bigger collective defence against the virus.”

Sam Sachdeva is Newsroom's national affairs editor, covering foreign affairs and trade, housing, and other issues of national significance.

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