Coronavirus: Additional 100,000 Māori eligible for booster, but major inequality concerns remain for rural regions

An additional 100,000 Māori will be eligible to get their booster vaccine now the time has been shortened from four months to three.

While the news is being welcomed by Māori health providers, there are still major inequity concerns for those in the rural regions.

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is gearing up to take on not only Omicron, but also the government bureaucracy.

"If they want us to fund, fight and win this Omicron battle, they actually need to let the communities take control and do it our way, which has actually helped us get this far," she says.

That's reducing the vaccination gap for Māori to 10 percent behind the general population. But Packer is calling for real-time data as the response is too slow.

"We are back to what we are doing in 2020 and again at the beginning of Delta trying to tell the bureaucrats your 1pm stand-ups, midnight cutoffs don't work for us."

On Wednesday, the Gisborne district was dealing with nine active cases, with some of the city's most popular fast-food restaurants among the locations of interest.

And as the outbreak grows, there will be more challenges involved in dealing with remote rural communities and having to send some of the tests to other regions to be processed.

"If you are getting a test done in Te Puia, the time it takes to get to the laboratory before it gets here and from here and to the laboratory in Palmerston North, which means you have to wait an awful long time to get the results," says Dr Osman Mansoor, medical officer of health for the Tairāwhiti region.

Matakāoa COVID-19 lead Tina Ngata says rural communities have to travel long distances for health care.

"For rural, isolated, largely Māori communities like ours, we have a significant distance to a base hospital. By the time you're able to get an ambulance out to our most remote community and have them transferred to the town ambulance and get them to hospital, you're looking at about a five hour transfer time."

Tairāwhiti has been lucky to have rapid antigen tests but iwi leaders from other regions, like Taranaki, are calling for more.

"If we have to live with this then we have to have the resourcing, the support, and the services provided so whānau can come in and get saliva tested or nasal tested because there is no rapid antigen here on the ground," Ngarewa-Packer says.

But Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says he's not been made aware of any shortfalls.

"No problems identified. All rural areas have access to rapid antigen tests and have been using them."