Ethnic community leaders call for more Covid-19 info in different languages

Source: 1News

Community leaders in ethnic communities are calling for the Government to do more to make sure Covid-19 messages are getting through to everyone, including people whose first language isn’t English.

Pasifika Medical Association’s Debbie Sorensen said messages about the pandemic are “not clear” for everyone. 

“Almost every week, there’s a new term,” she said. 

While the Government translates general Covid-19 information in 23 languages, specific information like locations of interest aren’t. A person may be able to translate the web page using web-based applications like Google Translate, but not everyone may know how to or have access to a device. 

The only way to access information in another language about locations of interest from officials themselves is by calling for an interpreter. 

In a statement to 1 NEWS, a Ministry of Health spokesperson said people can access specific information in their language by phoning their call centre. There, they can be connected with interpreter services, and some callers can speak multiple languages. 

“Information on locations of interest for people who may be contacts of Covid-19 cases in the community is available on the Ministry of Health website. However, at this stage, it is not being translated into other languages,” the spokesperson said.

“In metro Auckland, we regularly update community and faith leaders from all Asian MELAA (Middle Eastern, Latin American and African) communities on the latest Covid-19 updates, including our Punjabi community.

“During the latest Papatoetoe community outbreak, we updated all our communities on the latest Covid-19 updates, including opening hours for our community testing centres, translated resources available for our Asian and MELAA communities and a summary on all contact categories and the necessary actions.”

However, Supreme Sikh Society of New Zealand president Daljit Singh said it was difficult to reach his community because religious gatherings weren’t allowed in Alert Level 3. He said Covid-19 messages were usually relayed here. 

“Some families actually can’t speak English … We need to be having a more reach out to those families, especially with the translations of all the Covid instructions,” Singh said.  

It comes as questions continue to mount about the effectiveness of the Government’s Covid-19 communication strategy after Case L, a KFC worker who went to work shortly before testing positive for Covid-19, claimed she wasn’t told to isolate

But the Director-General of Health insisted multiple attempts had been made to try and contact the family. 

Dr Ashley Bloomfield acknowledged the latest cluster in Auckland was in a community with a high population of Southeast Asians. 

“We have got in this particular outbreak people not from our Māori or Pacific community where we have quite good contacts. They have Māori and Pasifika providers and they have good contacts through community leaders.”

Bloomfield said he wanted to look at ways to “strengthen” ties with other communities “just to make sure we’ve got all the channels we have to make sure the information is given out”.

He said “all the essential information” was translated in different languages, and work was underway to better reach the community.