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Lockdown drags on in Auckland


Second Covid-19 case recorded at University of Auckland as activities move online

New Zealand’s continuing lockdown has forced professional activities online as researchers in Auckland wait to hear when they will be allowed back to their workplaces.

The rest of the country will move to slightly relaxed restrictions, or alert level 3, on Tuesday night, but with most cases of Covid-19 in Auckland, the city’s level 4 lockdown has been extended by another two weeks.

On 30 August, the country recorded 53 new Covid-19 infections in the community.

A second case at the University of Auckland was revealed on 25 August. The case involved a staff member at the science centre on 17 August and has potentially exposed numerous people to Covid-19 in building 303 of the university.

The Health Research Council of New Zealand has announced a “blanket extension” for reports associated with grant applications and contracts while any part of the country is in level 3 or above. The deadline for Health Delivery Research Activation Grants and Health Delivery Research Career Development Awards has been extended from 2 September to 16 September.

Union concerns

The Tertiary Education Union’s academic freedom conference on 31 August and 1 September is among many events to have been moved online.

Sarah Proctor-Thomson, women’s officer at the union, said in an editorial on the TEU website that “despite Aotearoa [New Zealand] being shielded from some of the worst impacts of Covid-19…our institutions and staff are struggling”.

She said the forthcoming TEU “pulse” survey of tertiary staff would show “increasingly worrying patterns of extensive stress and burnout” due to the pandemic. “Since our first survey in May 2020, the percentage of participants experiencing ‘high’ to ‘very high’ levels of stress has increased from 24 per cent to 40 per cent,” she wrote.

Pasifika prioritisation

With a large number of the cases in the Pasifika community, experts have called for more work on connecting with those groups.

Dianne Sika-Paotonu, associate dean for the Pacific at the University of Otago, said that “it was known from the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic that Pacific peoples and Māori communities were vulnerable to being disproportionately affected by Covid-19 and would require prioritisation, especially for the vaccination rollout. Vaccination rates for Pacific peoples collectively across Aotearoa New Zealand remain of significant concern.”

“The implications for the Covid-19 vaccination campaign and priority-setting moving forward is that more work and support is needed to ensure Pacific and Māori peoples and communities are indeed being prioritised.”