Coronavirus: Health expert warns Brian Tamaki's COVID-19 protest is a 'potential super-spreader event'

A Pasifika health leader is urging police to put a stop to Brian Tamaki's planned COVID-19 protests this weekend, saying they're "nonsense" and will put Māori and Pacific people at risk.

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.

When the protests occur, Auckland will still be at alert level 3, where people are asked to stay at home whenever possible, and the rest of the country will be at alert level 2, where gatherings are capped. 

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster and his deputy Wally Haumaha spoke with Tamaki last Friday, warning him of the potential for enforcement action to be taken against those attending the demonstrations.

But Dr Colin Tukuitonga, Associate Dean Pacific and Associate Professor of Public Health at the University of Auckland, said the police should step in to prevent them from happening at all.

He told Newshub allowing a group of largely unmasked, unvaccinated individuals to congregate in close proximity to one another is "a risky undertaking".

"It's the sort of condition that really could permit or enable the Delta variant to spread rather quickly," he said.

"In case the people involved are not aware, we are still seeing significant numbers of new cases being reported in our town - mostly Māori and Pacific, I should say - and this event is going to put these communities further at risk."

Dr Colin Tukuitonga says Brian Tamaki's COVID-19 protest should not go ahead.
Dr Colin Tukuitonga says Brian Tamaki's COVID-19 protest should not go ahead. Photo credit: Newshub / Getty Images

Dr Tukuitonga warned modelling shows the Delta outbreak could get "quite explosive quite quickly".

"It's a potential mass or super spread event," he said of the protest.

"And that's why I'm against it. I think it's irresponsible and unnecessary. I really don't see the value of this to the city of Auckland except perhaps to Tamaki for his own purposes."

On Friday afternoon, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said conversations had been held in recent days to urge Destiny Church not to hold the COVID-19 protest.

"[There's] an event that's planned that we'd like them not to hold," he said.

Tamaki, who has said he won't be getting vaccinated despite being in his 60s and at high risk of serious illness should he contract COVID-19, has been spreading false claims about the pandemic and the Government's response.

In a video on Friday, he claimed 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". 

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said it was "irresponsible" talk, considering many of Tamaki's congregation are Māori and Pasifika and "most vulnerable to getting the virus". 

"He and his wife have said they don't believe in it, they don't believe in masking. You know, leave it to God. Well, my grandmother used to say, 'God helps those who help themselves'," he told The AM Show.