26 Aug 2021

'We want Covid-19 eliminated': Pasifika community in Auckland test in hundreds

7:58 pm on 26 August 2021

A dedicated Covid-19 testing centre for the largest sub-cluster of this outbreak opened today at the Manukau Magpies Rugby League & Sports Club in South Auckland.

Church leaders from 27 Samoan Assembly of God congregations across Auckland together with Southseas Healthcare and The Cause Collective organised a new 'restricted access' testing centre to operate for two days specifically for the church members only.

More than 100 cases trace back to the Samoan Assembly of God Church in Māngere.

Samoan AOG spokesperson Jerome Mika said the Samoan community had been cooperative and responsive to the idea of getting tested for Covid-19.

"A lot of people who have turned up today have been waiting in line since 8.30am," Mika said.

"People weren't resistant to getting tested and a lot of our church community have already tested once or twice, but they've come back to ensure that there isn't any question that everyone has tested.

"We're expecting around 900 to 1000 people to come through today.

"We don't want to be the reason for why we're in lockdown. We want Covid-19 eliminated and we want to move on," he said.

A testing station was set up for Assembly of God congregations in Māngere. Spokespeople Jerome Mika and  Rebekah Toleafoa.

Samoan AOG spokesperson Jerome Mika (right) and church member Rebecca Toleafoa Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

AOG church member Rebecca Toleafoa worked to ensure all close contacts knew about the new testing centre.

Toleafoa fought back the tears as she reflected on her church community members who had tested positive for coronavirus.

"We were all worshipping on Sunday the 15th of August, not knowing that in our church amongst the congregation there was an active case, so it has been an emotional time for us all.

"My heart goes out to everybody that's been tested positive for Covid," she said.

Northern Region Health Coordination Centre lead and Counties Manukau Health chief executive Fepulea'i Margie Apa said the purpose of this testing arrangement is to ensure the community can be tested in a place close to where they live and the processing of these tests can be prioritised.

"It actually makes it easier for us to make sure that the test that comes from that cluster are prioritised when it goes through the lab processing system. This is something we normally do for any cluster."

Apa was thankful for the Samoan community who turned up today to get tested and she reassured the public that information on Covid-19 would be provided to the group in Gagana Samoa, or the Samoan language.

"The information will be on how to isolate and where they can ring to get support, whether that be for food packages or welfare.

"We will also check in with the Samoan community and ask questions around whether any of them were at the exposure sites and that will help us narrow down and focus our testing programme on those who absolutely need to be tested," she said.

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Counties Manukau Health chief executive Fepulea'i Margie Apa Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Mika said it was important the Samoan community was informed about the virus and given regular updates.

"We have to remember that English is a second language for people in my community, and even during this time in lockdown a lot of our families are on prepaid phones and don't have Wi-Fi access.

"In terms of access and severity and how fast this has grown; a lot of our community are not connected to that.

"That's why I acknowledge Southseas Healthcare and The Cause Collective because we've had to use a cultural response, most of the healthcare workers undergoing the testing are Samoan, so they speak the language as well as care for our people in a way we know best.

"We also liaise with the Ministry of Health to ensure we're all on the same page," he said.

Spokesperson Jerome Mika at a testing station for Assembly of God congregations in Māngere.

Samoan AOG spokesperson Jerome Mika Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Tāmaki Makaurau health authorities say this week there's been record-breaking numbers getting Covid-19 tests.

Since the move to alert level 4 more than 150,000 community tests have been registered by the city's laboratories, making it metro Auckland's biggest week ever for testing.

Of these, almost 28,000 tests have been taken by communities that identify as one of eight Pacific ethnicities. This is the highest rate of testing per population of any group.

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