Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Māori leader fears a group of young people is putting the community at risk by allegedly ignoring isolation rules

A young Covid-infected person and a number of youth identified as close contacts have not been isolating in the King Country, prompting fears the virus could continue to spread in the small rural communities if people continue to ignore the rules.

Today there were nine new cases in the Waikato and six of those were in Te Kuiti, bringing the total number of active cases in Te Kuiti and Piopio to 58.

Maniapoto Māori Trust Board chair Keith Ikin said the King Country is the epicentre of the virus right now and wants people to understand the substantial risk they are putting others at if they continue to ignore health advice.

Yesterday, Ikin became aware of at least one person with Covid and other close contacts mixing in the community when they should be isolating at home, and said he had no doubt it wouldn’t help stop the spread.

It prompted him to post a video to the MMTB’s Facebook page urging people to isolate.

“I would like to request respectfully and with aroha that those of our whanau members make sure that we make everyone in our community safe. If you have tested positive or if you are a close contact, I would like to please request that you keep yourself isolated from your whanau and from the community until such time until you return a negative test,” Ikin said on a video posted to MMTB’s Facebook page yesterday.

Ikin told the Herald the community needed to pull together at this time, support each other and do everything they could to prevent the potential spread in the community and the devastating impact Covid could have.

He lives in Piopio and said there are two mass graves nearby that serve as a devastating reminder of the impact of the Spanish influenza on their communities.

“I’m not pushing this line because the Government happens to be pushing it, I’m pushing this line because the last time we had an epidemic in our communities, it devastated our communities.”

They needed to learn from history and do everything they could to keep themselves safe.

“So isolation is key to that and the other big focus is working with the key agencies to ensure our families who are having to isolate are well supported.”

There were a lot of large families living in small overcrowded houses and the trust board was in the process of identifying places locally where people could isolate if it wasn’t suitable for them to do so at home.

“We are seeing that spread, it’s happening right in front of us, right now. I am concerned because it’s a tight-knit small community and even though a lot of our people live rurally things can move quite quickly within tight-knit communities.”

Waitomo mayor John Robertson said yesterday that the messaging going into the community was “patchy” and local agencies including the council and the MMTB were working together to develop a local response plan to give clearer communication to the community around isolating should more surges happen in the district.

Robertson said Covid was showing no sign of abating and was instead spreading around the rural communities.

“It’s a real struggle, all this, for us in a small community, a rural community. This is getting hard and we know when New Zealand opens up, the modelling suggests – again this is just verbal advice I get – that we will get surges.”

His calculations showed the ratio of people getting Covid in Te Kuiti was three times higher than those in Auckland.

Te Kuiti High School. Piopio College and Piopio Primary School remain closed today due to a large number staff and students at the schools being identified as close or casual plus contacts.

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