Coronavirus: Anti-lockdown protesters labelled 'dickheads', gathering at the 'worse time'

A prominent Pasifika leader and a leading health academic are begging people not to show up to Brian Tamaki's protest march on Saturday, warning it could be a super-spreader event that ends Auckland's chance to beat Delta.

Destiny Church pastor Tamaki's group the Freedom and Rights Coalition is holding protests across the country on Saturday, including in Auckland and Christchurch, to oppose the Government's coronavirus restrictions - including in New Zealand's biggest city, which is at level 3. 

Mayor Phil Goff eviscerated Tamaki on Friday, calling him an idiot who - like other hardcore anti-vaxxers - is "probably beyond redemption" and will likely "end up in ICU" on the taxpayers' dime. 

Alf Filipaina, Councillor for the Manukau ward, told Newshub he's disappointed the south Auckland church will be putting its congregation and others at risk.

"If he wants to do any protest and everything else, why don't you wait until level 1? You don't want the event to become a superspreader. We know that has happened in many countries. It's just selfish."

Filipaina said there would likely be health professionals amongst Tamaki's flock who know what he's doing is wrong. 

"If you want to catch COVID-19 because you want to break the rules and gather together... that's your choice, like it's your choice not to get vaccinated. But don't push your choice on other people. 

"If you do go and you get COVID, I just hope you don't spread it to the rest of us."

Delta is far more infectious than previous COVID-19 strains, and there are still a few cases showing up in Auckland with no obvious link to known cases, suggesting undetected spread despite the restrictions. 

"It's clear that Auckland's not on top of the outbreak," said Des Gorman, emeritus professor of medicine at the University of Auckland. "It's also clear our contact tracing has failed to identify all the people of interest and all the undetected chains of transmission. You couldn't choose a worse time to have a protest march." 

He said people should "stay at home" if they could.

"If you have strong opinions about not being vaccinated well that's your business and that's your opinion. But please don't impose risk on us by getting together and spreading the virus amongst yourselves. That's just irresponsible." 

Dr Gorman believes the Delta outbreak might be proving difficult to stamp out because it's made its way into "marginalised parts of our community, which includes the gangs". 

Dozens of cars and even more people took part in a Headhunters gang funeral procession through Te Atatu in Auckland on Friday, completely ignoring limits on gatherings - for funerals, it's 10. 

Tamaki and Destiny Church have embraced gang members in the past, inviting them to events and protesting together

On his Facebook page Tamaki has falsely claimed suicide rates go up during lockdowns (there was actually a decrease in suicides during last year's nationwide level 4), that lockdowns have killed more people "many times over" than COVID-19 (the pandemic has killed almost 5 million people according to official confirmed counts, possibly several times more), and that Finance MInister Grant Robertson wants "jobs to collapse" (the unemployment rate actually dropped to its pre-pandemic level this year, with economists saying New Zealand was effectively at full employment). 

He claimed in a video on Friday the Government was deliberately carrying out "an attack on the church" by forcing its doors shut to stop super-spreader events, comparing level 3 restrictions to a "torture camp". 

Dr Gorman said the "5 percent of dickheads" flouting COVID-19 are ruining it for everyone else, and by prolonging the outbreak might force the Government to open up sooner than health experts think is advisable.

"How long to do you keep going, saying to the people who behave, 'You've got to stay home, not visit relatives outside of Auckland, you can't do this and you can't do that,' because the good folks will go, 'Hang on a minute - we've been behaving impeccably.' 

"But there's a small group in society who [say], 'You know what you can do with your regulations.'

"I think by Monday the Government's going to have to look at a more nuanced response and just take into account that there's a small group of people in any society who will be antisocial." 

The Government's expected to make the next decision on alert levels and boundaries on Monday. 

Destiny Church declined Newshub's request to comment on Friday.