We’ve never seen a nationwide disease illustrate class and deprivation like the future of the country depended on it. Not like this. This should change us.
This morning Prime Minister Ardern was on RNZ following a doctor talking about getting vaccines to Maori and Pasifika in a way that suited them.
In New Zealand, it goes like this: well off travellers bring in COVID-19 and get sequestered in hotels for recovery, and they reinfect the poor who suffer in rentals and are harder to reach.
The areas hardest hit are the suburbs of high social and economic deprivation within Auckland, who are also predominantly Maori and Pasifika. More than 50% of COVID-19 infections are of Pacific descent.
But they have one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.
It doesn’t take too much logic to identify that only the upper class have the power to use privilege to escape lockdowns that apply to all. Occasionally they are caught.
Generally speaking, those who are bringing COVID19 into the country are categorised European/Other, those who are most at risk of long eradication are Maori and Pasifika.
As the population heads towards 80% first vaccination and people get harder to reach and hence prevent a greater return to managed freedom of life and liberty, there will be bewildered questions: Who are these people? Why are they holding us back? Are they afraid? Are they lazy? Are they unpatriotic? Are they dirty? Don’t they care? Why are they doing this to us? Can I get angry yet? What caused this? When can I swim again?
It’s a fog of questions that belies a denial of deprivation and ethnicity and class: these people are us. The state – and those who work in and with it – is going to have to rely harder and deeper on those grassroots health providers who know and understand such people better than the public health system has so far. They already are. The public health system is seeing its own failings every day illuminated in national briefing headlights.
In Aotearoa New Zealand the unequal health outcomes experienced by Māori have been documented in a number of academic and government documents going back decades (Ministry of Health 2010; Robson, B & Harris, R (Eds.) 2007), and concepts to improve that access are voluminous.
A new nationwide Maori health structure will at some point be generated.
It was needed yesterday. Today. Now.
It is those on the side of the privileged upper class who can think of nothing better to do than to disrupt programmes that target Maori and Pacifika access to COVID19. Act leader David Seymour does so because it is in his career interests to sow class divisions. Because David Seymour sows race and class division in a time of national crisis, he is a traitor.
Deprivation and class barriers have caught up with the government and with us all, on a scale at which the current fate of the nation rides on it.
The biggest political mark is writ large across the sky: deprivation through class and ethnicity is the most damaging disease New Zealand has.
The primary disease to cure – for the sake of New Zealand – is to eradicate poverty itself.