New Zealanders in India are devastated that the government has taken the unprecedented decision to suspend all travel from the Covid-19 hot spot, leaving them stranded.
As of Sunday, no one can get here from India for 14 days – giving officials a chance to investigate ways to reduce the risk of a country where the coronavirus is endemic.
India is seeing a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases, with nearly 100,000 new infections reported every day.
This is reflected in the cases picked up in isolation managed here, with 80 percent in the subcontinent’s last two weeks. Seventeen of the 23 cases of Covid-19 reported in managed isolation yesterday have arrived from India.
Desperate times, desperate measures
Never before have New Zealand citizens and residents abroad been prevented from returning home.
The Prime Minister wants to know if and how this number of infectious cases in India can drop.
“There may just not be other practical ways to reduce the risk, but we want to exhaust all options as this not only secures those who travel, but of course reduces the risk. in our managed isolation facilities. “
National’s Chris Bishop said if the ban was unfortunate, it’s the right move.
“Extraordinary circumstances justify extraordinary measures. This is obviously not something we would like to see happen in the long term, but for a short period of time, a temporary suspension, I think in light of the large number of cases from India, it is the right thing to do “.
But for Manish, the temporary travel ban looks like punishment.
“You play by the book, you play by the rules, you do everything right … and suddenly something is thrown at you and you are left on your own.”
He traveled to Delhi in February to treat his sick father, leaving his wife and young daughter in Auckland.
Manish was due to board his return flight Monday morning.
“We don’t have family support in New Zealand so my partner was hoping that I was back and can support her too to get back to our normal days, to get back to our normal family life.
Manish was not sure if he would resume his normal family life.
“It says April 28, but we’re not sure … what the government is going to do next.”
The temporary travel ban – at this point – will be in place for 14 days, but the government has not ruled out extending it.
Human rights lawyer Michael Bott said the government’s ban did not violate the Bill of Rights Act as long as it was only temporary.
“This can be an example of where in an emergency we have to fundamentally have limits to the general rule of accepting all returning people at New Zealand’s borders and in this situation here, the risk of an epidemic is great. “
Charge of discrimination
While this ban only affects India, the government is also monitoring other countries with high rates of Covid-19 cases – like the United States and Brazil.
This is something that exercises an angry Mandeep Bela of the Indian Workers Association.
“Why only Indians?
“At first glance, it seems really discriminatory and I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.
“If you look at the active cases per capita, India lags behind other countries, and even if you look at the total number of cases, the US has more cases there than India, so this decision does not make sense. “
The government has always been keen to stress that the virus does not discriminate – but Mandeep Bela said it now looks like ministers are doing just that.
Professor Michael Baker, an epidemiologist at the University of Otago, said more work is needed to firm up the pre-departure process from India.
He said suspending travel was the right thing to do, but that as a last resort, efforts should be made to determine why people are infected before travel and on flights.
“Most people go through a central airport there … before they take their international flights, so can we have a facility there where people have a facility there where they have to stay in an airport hotel. for a week, take a pre-departure quick test before flying.
“This approach could have greatly refused that tap.”
He said experts had been raising the idea of travel suspensions for a few months, initially due to a large number of positive cases from the UK.