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Barbara Dreaver's opinion: Closing NZ's border to Pacific Islands is responsible, could save lives

Make no mistake. Closing the borders to Pacific Islanders who are neither citizens nor residents of New Zealand is the best thing.

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1 NEWS’ Pacific correspondent says closing the border is the right move to keep vulnerable communities safe from the pandemic. Source: Breakfast

The Government has been clear it has a responsibility to protect our Pacific neighbours. And this will do that.

At this stage, Samoa and Tonga do not have any reported Covid-19 cases and the one person suspected of having the virus in Samoa has recovered well and it’s expected to come back negative.

But either way it’s a scare that sent chills up the spine of authorities.

How easy it would be for the virus to be transmitted via family or friends from New Zealand heading home or even by tourists. Samoa knows death, they’ve watched their children die of measles.

Fiji confirms first coronavirus case - a flight attendant who briefly passed through Auckland

Little wonder the island nation put in strict border restrictions when other countries were thinking it was just another bird flu type scenario which would fade into oblivion.

But there were still glaring holes from overseas visitors and Samoa’s health system, which was badly shown up with the measles epidemic, would not be able to cope with even a whiff of a pandemic. And nor would other Pacific countries.

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During a meeting in Auckland, the only item on the agenda was how to save their most vulnerable from Covid-19. Source: 1 NEWS

Take Kiribati for example, which doesn’t even have a blood bank and its main hospital was built for a population one tenth of the size it currently has.

Many hospitals around the Pacific run out of the most basic drugs, sometimes even paracetamol is in short supply.

Add to that the high rates of diabetes and heart disease – which compounds the risk for Covid-19 complications.

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Pasifika leaders call for churches to take 'proactive steps' around coronavirus

Closing the border is one thing, closing church services here in New Zealand is in some ways a bigger challenge in the Pasifika community.

How many big churches are going to cap their congregations to 99 this weekend?

There was a marked resistance to the idea when I spoke to Ministers about doing exactly that this week.

Samoa as a country has done everything right.

Whether Samoans here in Auckland are prepared to take the same sort of proactive strict measures for themselves and their families remains to be seen