May 06, 2020
Dr Rawiri Taonui |Covid Māori Opinion | Continuing gaps in latest testing data and risk of anti-Asian racism
Continuing gaps in latest testing data and risk of anti-Asian racism
6 May 2020
Dr Rawiri Taonui
Latest Testing Data
The Ministry of Health has released the latest testing data to 30 April.
After publishing testing data for Māori yesterday, I took a bet that the Ministry would update data today. Newly updated testing figures came out this morning. This is the 4th time the Ministry has updated ethnic data or changed how they present ethnic data the day after I challenged their ethnic data. Of interest, I received a reply to my Official Information Act request on Tuesday saying the Ministry was too busy to produce the data I requested. Yet here is much of it today. Well done Ministry of Health. Keep up the irregular good work.
The mobilisation of Māori and Pacific Health Providers has made a stark difference to the testing of Māori and Pacific communities.
The data for 18 April, showed Māori were under-tested in 16 out of 20 DHBs and Pacific in 15 of 20 DHBs. The latest data shows that the average rate for testing per1000 of the population for Māori (24.0) and Pacific (29.0) is over the national average (22.5).
However, the pattern of the last report repeats. There has been significantly good testing of our communities in the Northern Region and the Waikato. This effort has extended into the regions where, for example, in less than one week, Māori health providers have made a massive contribution to testing rates for our people in Te Tai Rāwhiti and Taranaki. Beyond that, the effort thins out in regions further from large urban areas.
Māori and Pacific Priority Areas
Testing will never be precisely equal across all ethnicities. However, we can reasonably expect that testing should be over 90% of the national average for all ethnicities (above 20 tests per1000).
There are 7 DHBs (marked red) where testing of Māori is below 90% of the national average (below 20 tests per1000).
There are 9 DHBs where Pacific testing is below 90% of the national average. There is a real risk here that smaller Pacific communities are less seen and therefore less tested.
In MidCentral and Whanganui, this fits with anecdotal reports of extremely late efforts to involve Māori and Pacific health providers.
The testing effort from Māori and Pacific has been such that there are now 5 DHBs where Pākehā testing is marginally less than 90% of the national average. Although the deficits are much less then Māori and Pacific, we say to our Pākehā brothers and sisters, kia kaha!
Three weeks ago, I raised that the Asian community was fast becoming the least tested of all ethnicities. The gap is now more significant than ever. In 18 of 20 DHBs, the Asian community is being under-tested on average 37.8% lower than the national average, and in 3 DHBs by more than 50%, a position Māori were in 3 weeks ago.
It is an urgent priority that the Ministry of Health and the DHBs address under-testing of our Asian community.
Currently, the Asian community is 12.1% of all cases. Without more attention to this community, there is an elevated risk of undetected cases and pockets of COVID-19. It is also important that the Ministry and DHBs send the right message and give the Asian community the surety that they matter as fellow New Zealanders.
Testing over the last 11 weeks started with a necessary focus on mainly Pākehā-European New Zealanders who had been overseas. Māori and Pacific became a priority on 1 April. Testing was slow to start because mainstream providers could not engage well with our communities. By mid-April, it was clear that there was a significant gap between European and non-European testing. Māori and Pacific health providers have reduced the gap between our communities and Pākehā communities. There is a yawning chasm in testing for the Asian community.
If we move from Level 3 without having tested the main ethnic groups at reasonably the same level, there is a very real risk that the Asian community will be subject to significant vilification and racism. This is not acceptable.
Moving to Level 2
On 11 May, the government will decide whether we stay at Level 3 or move to Level 2. We need more ZERO new cases days, be well below 50 active cases, and address remaining significant gaps in testing for non-European Māori, Pacific and Asian communities before we can confidently move from Level 3. Subject to testing data not yet released for between 30 April and today, at this stage, a best call would be to stay one more week at Level 3.
Noho haumaru, stay safe and self-sovereign, Dr Rawiri Taonui.
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