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Pacific leaders united COVID-19 message to community: “We must take it seriously.”

Pacific leaders have called on all Church ministers to urgently raise awareness of Coronavirus among their communities after reports many were not taking the virus seriously.

Reverend Mamea Tanielu at a meeting for Pacific leaders on COVID-19 Photo: RNZ/Indira Stewart

Dozens of church ministers representing more than 500 Pacific congregations across the country agreed in a meeting on Wednesday to push a united message across their communities around following Government advice and restrictions to tackle the spread of COVID-19.

Several of those attending had only recently returned from Samoa helping families affected by the Measles Outbreak.

Tuala Tagaloa Tusani, Chairman at New Zealand Samoa Trade & Investment Commission, spent the last 5 months in Samoa and says the Measles Outbreak taught the Pacific community a difficult lesson in taking outbreaks seriously.

“We saw what happened there when leaders were slow to move, communities were slow to move in terms of these illnesses,” said Tusani

“I’ve seen it first-hand. I’ve seen children die, I’ve seen them buried, I’ve seen their coffins. I mean, it’s huge. So definitely, past experiences have prepared us today for this event.”

Pacific leaders meet over COVID-19 Photo: RNZ/Indira Stewart

Mr Tusani said it was a relief to see Pacific leaders across the country united in their call in regards to tackling COVID-19.

“If you look at all the Ministers present, they represent over 500 different churches throughout Aotearoa so I’d say definitely they’re united. You’ve got leaders of Niue, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu to Kiribati, Fiji. They were joined in saying that we must work together as a collective,” he said.

“You have to remember that despite us coming from different islands, a lot of us are inter-married. So going into a home with say, your Samoan and Tongan home knowing that your Faife’au (Church Minister) from your Tongan side and your Faife’au from your Samoan side are saying the same thing – that helps these parents move the message to their children. So I’m very proud to see what happened today with our leadership.”

Pacific Leadership Forum spokesperson, Reverend Mamea Tanielu says everyone must work together alongside other New Zealand communities in doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“We are all in the same boat. We have no choice anyway. This is a call for each and everyone including institutions – the church is no exception.,” said Reverend Tanielu.

“I think we’ve learnt a lot from the Measles epidemic in Samoa and people of Samoa, and in fact the whole Pacific Islands has got to take it seriously. There’s no exception. Now it’s declared a global pandemic. We’ve got no choice.”

Reverend Tanielu urged the elderly, who among the most vulnerable, to remain calm and practice good hygiene.

“For the eldest people like me: stay cool, stay home. Be healthy, stay clean, wash your hands. Make sure you look after your health and be cool,” said Reverend Tanielu.

“Do not be over-depressed but trust in God and stay cool.”

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