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Covid-19: Govt needs better messaging for ethnic groups, Auckland councillor says

The Ministry of Health needs a better strategy for communicating information related to Covid-19 to ethnic communities, an Auckland councillor says.

Paul Young, who is of east Asian descent, said the Ministry of Health needs to strengthen its messaging for New Zealanders who don’t have English as their first language.

It comes after two east Auckland locations – Botany Kmart and Dark Vapes in East Tāmaki – were announced as locations of interest linked to the Papatoetoe cluster of the virus.

About 40 per cent of the population of the east Auckland area is Asian.

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Young’s comments came a day after the ministry reclassified those who shopped at the stores from ‘casual plus contacts’ to ‘close contacts’, a change he believed many migrants living in the area were not aware of as of Thursday morning.


Howick ward councillor Paul Young says the ministry needs to better communicate through ethnic media, as many migrants do not have English as a first language.

Howick ward councillor Paul Young says the ministry needs to better communicate through ethnic media, as many migrants do not have English as a first language.

“I only found out this morning from a Counties Manukau DHB email,” he said.

Young said as of Thursday midday, he had only seen one report of the change to “close contacts” in Chinese media, published by Skykiwi.

Young said the ministry needs to “send more direct information to ethnic community leaders and ethnic media to share with the community”.

Many migrants can’t access mainstream media due to language barriers and rely on information from social media, such as WeChat, and ethnic media, he said.

This information is often translated from mainstream news and is thus delayed, he said.

Members of a WeChat group set up by east Auckland residents to discuss the pandemic were unaware on Thursday that Kmart contacts had been reclassified.

One woman who is now deemed a close contact was shocked to find out about the change from a Stuff reporter.


Kmart in Botany has reopened after it had to be closed for cleaning due to a staffer testing positive for covid-19. (File photo).

Ryan Anderson/Stuff

Kmart in Botany has reopened after it had to be closed for cleaning due to a staffer testing positive for covid-19. (File photo).

Despite seeing high levels of responsiveness among the east Auckland Asian community since the Kmart link was announced, with long queues appearing at the Botany testing site, Young said he remains concerned that information is not reaching communities fast enough.

“How many people are going to download the PDF files from the websites?” Young said in reference to the MoH’s translated Covid-19 guidance.

He said the ministry needs to proactively establish relationships with at least one to two ethnic media outlets for each ethnic group.


A man lines up for testing in Botany.

A man lines up for testing in Botany.

Information obtained by Stuff from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) showed the Government spend on paid Covid-19 commmunications for culturally and linguistically diverse audiences is just 6.29 per cent of the total spend.

The figure reflects the period from March 2020 to February 10, 2021.

A spokesman for Minister Kris Faafoi said in early February that Covid-19 communications are broadcast and published through a range of ethnic media outlets.

He also said the Government gets free Covid-19 coverage through established relationships with several ethnic media organisations.

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