There will be no repatriation flight to Nuku’alofa this Tuesday because one Tongan in Auckland has tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.
It’s a grim reality that the illness of one person affects the lives of many, many, other people.
The person who got sick didn’t intend to get sick and the people who are stranded in New Zealand because of the outbreak certainly didn’t intend to be here either.
But it has served to reminded us that we are all in this together.
As Dame Valerie Adams said in the Ministry of Pacific People’s new video, the pandemic is bigger than all of us.
Pasifika people have made 8% of overall cases in New Zealand, or about 130 people, but in the new outbreak they have made up 75% of cases.
Member for Manukau East Jenny Salesa and other community leaders have urged people to get tested and testing rates have jumped dramatically this week.
Six community testing stations have been set up in South Auckland, with more than 2000 people tested.
Dr Collin Tukuitonga, who is based in south Auckland, made the point succinctly when he said there had been a “terrific coming together” from different sectors to protect people’s health.
“It’s not a Pasifika problem it’s not a South Auckland’s problem it’s a New Zealand challenge for us all,” he said.
However, because of their close links with New Zealand, it’s also a problem for the Pacific Islands.
Tonga and many other islands have remained free of the virus and it is entirely understandable that the Tongan government doesn’t want to risk bringing anybody back who might be contaminated.
Yesterday we reported the advice of the head of the WHO in the Western Pacific, Dr Takeshi Kasai, who said the Pacific island nations should remember the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic.
That story revolved around the voyage of the Talune, which was allowed to sail unchecked to Samoa, Tonga and Nauru, spreading death and disease as it went.
The flu struck Tonga when Queen Salote Tupou III had been on the throne for a year.
She became ill, but survived and looked after her husband, Tungi, and their newborn child.
Queen Salote later recalled: “People crept into their houses to die.”
“Some died because they were too weak to get food. People were buried like dogs – no ceremonies, just bundled into the graves.
“The people were so distressed by having their dead buried in pits together that they were going round digging them back up again.”
The death toll in Tonga has been estimated as being as high as 2000 people, or about 10 percent of the population. They died between November 1918 and January 1919.
In reminding people of the flu epidemic, Dr Kasai wanted to remind people of how bad things were.
But it could also be a reminder of how much better things are now.
When the Spanish flu struck nobody had any idea what was happening or how to deal with it.
In contrast, governments have known what to do and have been able to provide scientifically based advice to their people.
There is a chance that an anti-viral drug will be developed and the Australian government has promised it will be available to Island governments.
And we are constantly reminded that to survive, we need to support each other.
The Covid-19 pandemic is truly bigger than all of us, but this time we are far better equipped to face the challenges that lie ahead.
– Kaniva News