Jacinda Ardern speaks on Pasifika and South Auckland issues in an online press conference.

‘I will very strongly defend them’ – Jacinda Ardern on South Auckland family

The prime minister spoke to South Auckland and Pasifika media this afternoon. Justin Latif reports.

Jacinda Ardern has paid tribute to the South Auckland family at the centre of the recent Covid-19 outbreak in Auckland, as well as the Pacific community for the way it has responded to the call to get tested. 

The prime minister made the comments during a special briefing for South Auckland and Pacific media this afternoon. She appeared on the Zoom conference together with the director general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, the Pacific peoples minister Aupito William Sio and associate health minister Jenny Salesa. 

“Where would we be right now if that family hadn’t done exactly the right thing and been tested,” the prime minister said. 

“They have potentially saved lives, by helping us identify that there’s been a resurgence, that helped us keep others safe. They are part of our solution, not part of our problem.”

Ardern said she had not been in direct contact with the family, but she wanted to extend her “deepest gratitude” to them, particularly after hearing reports of the harassment they are being subject to. 

“I’m hugely disheartened by what they’ve had to face. These people have ultimately protected New Zealand and I will very strongly defend them. Had they not been tested in the way that they were, we would have been dealing with a much larger outbreak.”

Asked about the new testing oversight team that was established earlier this week, to be co-chaired by Heather Simpson and Brian Roche, Ardern said: “On the membership I can give you an absolute assurance there will be a Pasifika voice in that group.”

Ardern said she wanted to assure South Aucklanders they shouldn’t fear tests owing to fears around immigration status or the risk of being separated from their family. 

There should be “no barriers”, she said.

“Testing is free, and your visa status or any other status is not checked or collected, so people should feel safe about coming forward … I have also heard that people fear they might lose contact with their family if they’re a positive case. We will try and keep families together, but also make sure we don’t have long trains of transmission.”

So far 23% of people tested are of Pacific ethnicity and Bloomfield reiterated the prime minister’s thanks to those who were taking this outbreak serious. 

“Prior to this lockdown, the Pacific community had the highest rates of testing by ethnic population in the country,” he said. “I think this time around we’ve seen once again their willingness to really support the efforts to get that high testing rate, to not only ensure [we find] any cases within the Pacific community and to support the wider population effort.”

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