Māori, Pacific health experts call for Level 4 in Auckland, Northland

Kristin Hall
Source: 1News

Māori and Pacific health experts Dr Matire Harwood and Dr Collin Tukuitonga have called for a move to Level 4 in Auckland and Northland during a meeting with Government officials on Thursday.

Dr Matire Harwood.

Dozens of independent experts, academic specialists and Government health officials met to discuss our pandemic response. The meeting was brought forward to today after being scheduled for later in the month.

Tukuitonga and Harwood told officials they believe the move up alert levels is necessary because of the high case numbers in the region, the number of unlinked cases and our current vaccination statistics.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins ruled out a move to Alert Level 4 in Wednesday’s press conference, something Covid-19 modeller Shaun Hendy says was the wrong move.

“I hope that was a quick reaction and I hope they haven’t actually ruled that out...I would like to see a circuit breaker level 4 as part of the toolkit. There’s no sign things are slowing down at the moment.”

The Ministry of Health confirmed today that 37 of today’s 71 positive cases are Māori. Harwood says she wants to know if Māori health experts were consulted on the Government’s decision to move away from elimination and introduce stages in Auckland’s alert level 3. Harwood and Tukuitonga are part of the Government’s Covid-19 Technical Advisory Group, which wasn’t consulted according to members.

The Government has so far withheld the public health advice which informed the shift away from elimination, and hasn’t said which independent experts, if any, were consulted.

At Thursday’s press conference Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay said the Ministry of Health meets with experts employed by the ministry, as well as those working for regional public health and those working for DHBs.

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said the Government hears advice from independent experts “through public discourse”.

“We’re very well aware of the views that they’re espousing. We have a process that’s tried and true that we’ve run throughout the pandemic that’s guided our decisions.”

Change to Alert level system discussed

Also discussed at the meeting was a change to the current Alert Level system. The Government’s been consulting on a so-called ‘traffic light’ system. If adopted, it would replace the Alert Levels.

In the green light setting there would be very few restrictions, similar to Alert Level 1. This would be for when case numbers are low and isolated.

An increase of community cases would lead to the orange light setting, where venue capacity would be limited and those entering venues may need to be vaccinated.

The red light setting would be for when there are clusters in multiple regions, which would mean restrictions on gatherings and travel.

Experts at the meeting told 1News the traffic light system seemed “unworkable” and was unlikely to go ahead, though the idea is still being discussed.