The Human Rights Commission has received 311 enquiries and complaints related to the COVID-19 pandemic up to 5 May 2020.
“Human rights demand that measures taken during a national emergency are lawful, proportionate, fair, just, non-discriminatory, and subject to independent scrutiny,” says Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo.
“As a nation, we have human rights duties to our whanau, neighbours, workers, and wider communities. We must continue to act with fairness, respect, dignity and within the law, as we navigate these difficult times together.”
She says COVID-19 is not a reason to discriminate against people because of their race, colour, ethnic or national origins, disability, gender, age, or other grounds of discrimination, or because of the status of their health.
Enquiries and complaints to the Commission so far range from allegations of racism and harassment towards Chinese and Asian people, housing discrimination based on the status of health, funding provided to Māori and Pacific communities and not all ethnic communities, and the closure of public toilets for disabled people during the lockdown.
In 2018/19, the Commission received 1,417 enquiries and complaints about unlawful discrimination of which 1,282 complaints alleged unlawful discrimination under the Human Rights Act. The new figures are separate from those.
To help New Zealanders understand their human rights and stay informed during this difficult time, the Commission has launched a specialised COVID-19 website - covid19.hrc.co.nz