An ardent appeal for wider compliance of lockdown rules

An ardent appeal for wider compliance of lockdown rules

Venkat Raman
Auckland, April 2, 2020

Multicultural New Zealand President Pancha Narayanan

A community leader has urged all New Zealanders to observe the rules and regulations prescribed by the government to contain the spread of the deadly Covid-19.

Wellington based Multicultural New Zealand (MNZ) President Pancha Narayanan has appealed to migrant communities and former refugees to own responsibility and appreciate the need to observe the government directives to foster their safety as well as that of the country.

The New Zealand government heighted the coronavirus Alert Level to 4 on March 25, 2020, putting in place restrictions on people’s movements, closing down offices and non-essential services.

No exceptions please

Mr Narayanan said that New Zealanders have scrambled to keep pace with the Government’s instructions, adding, “You are no exception.”

He said that community leaders from various government agencies and regional Multicultural Councils discussed the ways and means of working together and sought to identify where people are currently falling through the gaps.

“Among the participants at the telephone conference were officials from the Ministry of Social Development, Office of the Ethnic Communities and the New Zealand Police. We were disappointed that no one from the Ministry of Health was present,” Mr Narayanan said.

Stating that one in four New Zealanders were born overseas, he said that a significant percentage of portion of the population face unique challenges in current pandemic situation.

Identifying challenges

It is imperative that these challenges are identified and addressed, he said.

“The teleconference gave an opportunity for communities and the federal government to listen to each other. We recognised the following as vulnerable- Maori, Pasifika, Children, People with cultural and language barriers (particularly the elderly, those with disabilities, mental health issue, addiction) and refugees (especially those with young children),” Mr Narayanan said.

According to areas of need that are coming up include (a) food that recent migrants and refugees are accustomed to access to public services (b) safety from racism on the streets and in the community (c) language barriers that are proving a real issue as we get further into the lockdown period.

“The government needs to be very clear on what they mean by the bubble. This kind of language does not translate clearly for those who are not competent in English,” he said.

Purposeful engagement

Mr Narayanan said that the message of MNZ to the government is to maintain purposeful engagement and respect the abilities of communities to make a difference.

“The government should continue to be relentless, honest and transparent and follow good models from non-traditional sources to combat Covid-19. It should have culturally appropriate instructions. It is not about creating exceptions or encouraging the use of discretion. Messages should be inclusive and universal,” he said.

Simple and clear messages and instructions can be easily translated by members of the various ethnic communities without its correctness being lost in translation, he added.

“We note that pan-ethnic organisations including MNZ, a national body representing New Zealand’s ethnic communities, have not been adequately consulted on sensitive issues such as deaths and funerals. We appreciate that not all the cultural aspects can be catered for, but we emphasise that there must be no loss of dignity,” he said.

Reposing confidence

“If we are unable to effect efficiency in distribution of masks and hand sanitizers (of much needed PPE for example) to community outlets like pharmacies and supermarkets at this point of the lockdown,  how can we have the confidence that our supply chain and distribution systems in New Zealand are adequately equipped to deal with similar issues if things worsen rapidly over the next days?,” he asked.

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