COVID-19: Pacific people being targeted by racism amid latest outbreak - Ministry of Health

Pacific people are experiencing discrimination amid New Zealand's Delta community outbreak of COVID-19, the Ministry of Health says.

Officials earlier revealed that of the 148 cases of COVID-19 detected in the current cluster, more than half were of Samoan ethnicity. That's largely due to 58 people linked to the Assembly of God Church, the outbreak's largest sub-cluster, testing positive. 

It's worrying some experts. Pacific Peoples principal researcher Debbie Ryan said it was "depressingly familiar" to the Auckland outbreak last August - where Pacific people made up nearly 60 percent of community infections. 

To add to the health impacts, officials say some members of the Pacific community involved in the COVID-19 outbreak were having racist comments directed at them.

"The virus is the problem, not people," a post on the Ministry of Health's Twitter page said, urging people to "be part of the solution" and "be kind".

Reacting to news more than half of the cases in the current COVID-19 outbreak are Pacific people, Dr Ryan said it's well documented how susceptible the Pacific community is to infectious diseases.

And Dianne Sika-Paotonu, head of Wellington's University of Otago Pacific office, said more support was needed for Māori and Pacific communities to be prioritised.

"Given the inequities that have persisted in health for Māori and Pacific peoples already, it was known from the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic that Pacific peoples and Māori communities were vulnerable to being disproportionately affected.

"Pacific health staff, Pacific health providers, Pacific community, family and church leaders, and many others who have already been working incredibly hard behind the scenes to encourage and ensure Pacific peoples and their families to get vaccinated and tested for COVID-19, also need to be supported to continue doing this work," Dr Sika-Paotonu said.