Pasifika fear Covid-19 resurgence as schools reopen

As Pasifika cases start to trend downwards there is fear in the community that senior students returning to school will prompt another Covid spike.

Forty four per cent of the Delta outbreak are Pasifika, down from three quarters of all cases in early September.

Of Thursday’s 102 cases, only 15 are Pasifika, but officials say its far too early to be complacent.

Dr Colin Tukuitonga from the Pasifika Medical Association says the exposure for Pasifika appears to be continuing to decline and vaccinations are making a difference.

“It’s an encouraging trend but it’s not the same as saying we’re good now so I would still encourage people to get vaccinated, also to get tested, wash hands, do all of the things that we’ve spoken about before because there are still Pasifika people being impacted by the virus,” he said.

A pop-up Tongan vaccination centre run by The Fono is focusing on attracting youth, given senior students are back in the classroom next week.

Chief executive Tevita Funaki says his team are aware there are 9,000 Tongans who are yet to be vaccinated and they are aiming at targeting at least a third of them, many of them teens.

“There is an element of fear, there’s some really nervous parents out there about kids going back to school – so get vaccinated before going back to school.

The Fono are offering those under the age of 25 who get vaccinated a $25 prezzie card along with a $100 grocery voucher.

High school teacher Alisi Tatafu, helping out at the vaccination centre, says it’s crucial senior students get jabbed.

“There is a lot of concern just with our own classrooms, ventilation masks and protecting ourselves….school should be a safe space for learning, its not going to be normal any more however together with our principals and staff feedback we will work together,” she said.

South Seas Healthcare chief executive Lemalu Silao Vaisola-Sefo says the reason why vaccination rates for Pasifika are going up is because pacific providers are trusted by the community.

At a recent youth-led vaccination drive run by his organisation seven thousand people got jabbed.

He says providers and health officials are working closer than they have before but there is a long way to go.

“This is going to go on for the next two years, while the trend is positive, now is the time we can see how we can work together, closer going forward,”.