1 Mar 2021

Covid-19: 'We should be TikToking' - Collins calls for better messaging

From Checkpoint, 5:09 pm on 1 March 2021

The government is being told to roll out clearer and smarter communications around the latest Covid-19 community outbreak, to make sure they are reaching into every corner, and culture of the country.

South Aucklanders spoken to by Checkpoint on Monday have expressed their disappointment that some of the region's newest cases broke lockdown rules and advice to stay at home after being tested.

But Manukau councillor Efeso Collins says some Covid-19 messages are simply not getting through in one of Aotearoa's most multicultural centres.

"We need a clear South Auckland communications engagement strategy," Collins told Checkpoint

"We should be working with organisations like South Seas, Vision West, Anglican Trust for Women and Children, who can reach into the community and hand over the information. 

"The bureaucrats have to let this go. They will cost us the war if they don't let go of this now. They've got to let go of this power and trust the community to get the information to our households."

He said there need to be more people in the Manukau area, delivering information about Covid-19 in person. 

"People respond to relationships. What we don't have is people on the ground… out there making sure the message gets to our families. 

"We've got to go directly into the home, speak the languages that are spoken in the families - Punjabi, Hindi, Samoan and Tongan - and make sure people really understand this.

"Young people are on social media all the time. They're going to understand Instagrams, we should be TikToking this information. That's the kind of stuff we should be doing. 

"But that's the problem when you've got the bureaucracy handling it." 

In a post-Cabinet briefing, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said they were very conscious of the need to ensure everyone was aware of alert level changes, and they worked with the Ministry of Pacific Peoples, Te Puni Kōkiri, and office of ethnic communities to get those messages out.

"I'm on a group of MPs where we look at 'have we done a translation of the alert level changes, have we got it in multiple languages, across social media sites, so do in earnest make sure we're not just utilising mainstream media, and nor are we just communicating in English.

"We also of course use things like Civil Defence Emergency notifications to let people know what we're expecting of them and of course people spread the word themselves as well, and we try and use our team as social and community leaders to spread that message and ask others to do the same."

Asked about confusion on advice and guidance at alert level 3, Ardern said advice had remained the same throughout, but the only difference this time was being more cautious with casual contacts due to the more infectious nature of the UK variant.

However, councillor Efeso Collins said local community organisations were in a better place to get the message across. He said had seen evidence the communications from Wellington were not getting into all South Auckland homes. 

"I still have people who ring and say, 'can we still have lunch and come over to your house after church'. Church was online." 

With the virus continuing to pop up in South Auckland, Collins said priority vaccinations in the region should be given serious thought.

Update: At Tuesday's Covid-19 media conference, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield was asked about using TikTok to disseminate information. 

He said he is not personally planning to open a TikTok account, but the Ministry of Health has a dedicated team for social media, and noted that at this time last year the ministry did not have a Facebook page. It now has nearly 150,000 followers. 

"You would have seen some of the messaging for some of the big music festivals... I was very happy to be able to support getting that message out in formats that I think, from talking to my children, resonated with people younger than myself."