A Maori tribe has told anti-vaccine protesters in New Zealand to stop the use of a famous haka “immediately”.
The Ka Mate haka is hugely popular as it is performed by national rugby team the All Blacks before every match.
The Ngati Toa tribe, which has legal guardianship of the haka, issued a strong notice after protestors performed the war dance during demonstrations last week.
The notice comes as vaccination rates among the Maori people have been low.
Just 61% of Maori people are fully vaccinated and 77% have received their first dose. This is short of New Zealand’s targeted rate of 90%.
“Ngati Toa condemns the use of the Ka Mate haka to push and promote anti-Covid-19 vaccination messages,” said its chief executive officer Helmut Modlik in a statement.
“Many of our tupuna [ancestors] lost their lives in previous pandemics… we are absolutely clear that the Covid-19 vaccine is the best protection we have available to us, and we are committed to supporting our whānau [family] to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Last week, an estimated 2,000 protestors gathered outside parliament in Wellington and across the country, waving large Trump flags and carrying anti-vaccination signs.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had earlier said the country will require teachers and workers in the health and disability sectors to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
New Zealand, which initially adopted a tough Covid-19 response, has said it will begin moving away from a zero-Covid strategy toward one of living with the virus.
The country has reported 9,000 cases so far and 34 deaths, with its death toll among the lowest in the world.