Peeni Henare: Keep Auckland border restrictions until Māori vaccine rate increases

The AM Show 07/10/2021

Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare says vaccination rates amongst Māori needs to increase before restrictions continue to be eased across Auckland and the rest of the country.

Only 57.6 percent of Māori have had their first dose compared to 74 percent for Pasifika, 81 percent for European and 96 percent for Asian people.

With restrictions set to continue to ease over the coming weeks, Peeni Henare has made clear that further easing while vax rates remain lower for Māori could create major problems for the community.

"We do have a continued challenge here and I made it clear when Cabinet makes the decisions and as we look towards loosening some of those restrictions, it would have an impact on our communities and that's one of the strong debates that we have as a Cabinet. And I am not the only one who feels that way.

"We've got to make sure that we continue to stamp out COVID-19 - which is why I am in Rotorua today, to ramp up our vaccination numbers."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is joining Henare in Rotorua today to drive more vaccines in the community.

"I've got no problems or complaints about our voice being heard both in Cabinet and more broadly in government."

Though, the concern around easing restrictions is till there for Henare.

"I've made that clear in a number of Cabinet meetings - my reticence towards loosening those border restrictions in Tamaki Makaurau, that's why we still see them there today. "

Loosening restrictions is something Henare is in favour of, but urges cabinet to keep Auckland borders so they can continue to drive vaccination rates up in the wider Māori community.

"I have been supportive of the way we step out of the lockdown at alert level 3. I hear it from the community that they want to be able to engage with whanau, they want to be able to get out and see a little bit more of Tamaki Makaurau and our challenge was to strike the balance of allowing those kinds of liberties while continuing to keep our border… and I think we have achieved that."

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