As Auckland celebrates its first week in the new traffic light system with new freedoms, the region’s Pacific community is celebrating a milestone of its own.
Last Friday, Aucklanders were given a taste of normal life with the country entering the new traffic light system.
New Zealand’s largest city moved into the red level, meaning hospitality could reopen and people could dine in – with proof of vaccination.
Alongside that luxury, people can now also work up a sweat in a gym or burst their bubbles and visit whānau inside their homes.
Meanwhile, Counties Manukau District Health Board, which has the nation’s largest Pacific community, has joined Auckland and Waitematā DHBs in reaching the 90 per cent first-dose milestone among the eligible population.
Northern Region Health Co-ordination Centre Pacific Lead Meg Poutasi said the achievement reflects the work Pacific leaders and groups have been doing over the past few months.
“Our Pacific health provider partners, church leaders and community organisers have been instrumental, week in and week out, in bringing the vaccine to our people.
“Without their efforts, we would not have reached this milestone at this speed and prior to Christmas.”
While Counties Manukau DHB chief executive Margie Apa said it was a great achievement, she said the focus would now be turning to people who need to get their second dose.
“We’re now turning our attention to encouraging those who have had their first dose three weeks ago, to get their second dose as soon as possible.”
Yesterday, 103 new cases of Covid-19 in the community were recorded. Of those, 88 were in Auckland, nine in Waikato, five in the Bay of Plenty and one in the Lakes district.
Seventy people are in hospital, including five in intensive care – all in Auckland and Waikato. Of those in hospital, 37 cases, or 61 per cent, are unvaccinated or not eligible for the vaccine.
In Auckland, more than 3100 people are isolating at home, including 863 cases.
As the country edges towards 90 per cent fully vaccinated, many Kiwis have received a third primary dose or the booster dose.
Across the country, 19,059 have had a third primary dose and 132,661 have been given booster doses.
In the South Island, an Air New Zealand flight from Nelson to Christchurch had to sit on the tarmac for half an hour while staff negotiated with two passengers who were refusing to put on masks.
Flight NZ8857 on Thursday last week eventually departed 30 minutes late with the unmasked pair on board, after staff confirmed they had an exemption.
Air New Zealand would not confirm how the two people proved they were exempt from having to wear a mask, but the Herald understands they did not have an official Covid vaccination exemption card.
Air New Zealand’s current Covid-19 policy states that face masks or coverings are required on all flights in all traffic light levels.
However, official Government guidelines say passengers don’t need to show proof of an exemption to not wear a mask on a flight, but it is highly recommended.
E Tū Union head of aviation Savage said those rules should change to require proof of mask exemptions to be shown before boarding a flight.
“We just want to make sure that if someone has got an exemption for wearing a mask that the cabin crew or the ground staff are not having to confront that person or get themselves into any situation where a person is going to get offended for being asked.”
Savage said they were seeing more people not wanting to wear a mask as the discussion around vaccines became more polarised.
“Particularly because of the controversy for some people around vaccinations, there are more people who are making a show of the fact they don’t want to wear a mask.”
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