Pacific churchgoers urged to isolate as cluster cases identified in Wellington

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Ōtara testing centre RNZ file
More than 1000 swabs were taken at the the Ōtara testing centre yesterday. Image: Simon Rogers/RNZ

RNZ Pacific

New Zealand health officials are concerned about a cluster of covid-19 cases linked to a Pacific church in Auckland’s Māngere suburb.

The Ministry of Health is urging members of a Samoan church to isolate and get tested after multiple covid-19 cases have now been identified as having attended last Sunday a week ago.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has highlighted this as a location of particular importance to the outbreak.

“Several of the new cases announced to date are linked to a church service at the Samoan Assembly of God Church in Māngere last Sunday, August 15,” Dr Bloomfield said at a media conference yesterday.

The cluster has spread to Wellington, too.

“There is a number of cases now around that event, including three of our cases down here in Wellington who had been at that event in Auckland.”

The attendees at the church that day (33 Andrew Baxter Drive, Māngere, between 9am and 3pm) are being asked to isolate for 14 days from the exposure date.

Another busy day
That means they have to stay apart from other members of their household, as well as get tested, which they have been heeding.

“Another busy day – 1023 swabs all up. We’ve had a lot of the Pacific community come through,” said Michelle Tukia, lead nurse at South Seas Healthcare which runs the Ōtara testing centre.

In addition to those swabs, a special pop-up centre set up at a nearby Samoan Assembly of God church took 500 swabs yesterday.

Auckland councillor for the Māngere ward Alf Filipaina is urging people to comply for the sake of their family.

“Because you don’t want to get them infected. This is even more important to do because of the variant. Protect your family by protecting yourself,” Filipaina said.

“Look it’s hard – with the extending aiga whanau I’ve got, and many other Pacific and Māori [do] – you just have to be very careful.”

While it is only one of a number of large events, it is a top focus for the Ministry of Health.

Contact tracing priority
“This is a priority for our contact tracing efforts. What we have seen in the past of course is that Pacific community leaders are very good at mobilising the community to get tested.

“This is coming through in our testing results – by far the highest rate of testing is among our Pacific community, and we want to encourage that.”

Filipaina said the community has squashed covid-19 before, and it can do it again.

“When it happened at Mt Roskill, and hit South Auckland, Papatoetoe High School, we ended up getting through that … if we just follow the same [procedure].”

Testing centres are open again today.

Lockdown plus decision today
Meanwhile, RNZ reports that New Zealand will find out today if the covid-19 lockdown is going to be extended.

The government will announce any lockdown changes at 4pm but it has already signalled Auckland is likely to remain in lockdown a while longer.

The number of community cases of covid-19 grew by 21 yesterday, 20 in Auckland and one in Wellington, taking the total number in the current outbreak to 72.

The country’s contact tracing system has hit capacity and and more contact tracers, especially Pacific, are being urgently recruited for Auckland.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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