Community leaders have questioned the New Zealand governments’ decision to temporarily close the border to people traveling from India and say they fear the move could cause racism and stigma.
The Question of Why India? should be asked and a clear answer should be given, said Sunil Kaushal, president of the Indian Waitakere Association. He asked why the decision applied only to India, when other nations, including the United States, Brazil, France and the United Kingdom had also experienced levels of rising infection, especially when compared per capita.
We do not feel like part of the 5 million team when Indians stand out like that, he said.
The Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced on Thursday that New Zealand will temporarily suspend entry for all travelers from India, including its citizens, for two weeks from 11 April after registering a high number of positive Covid-19 cases from the country that arrived at the border.
On Thursday, New Zealand also announced that another border worker had been infected with Covid-19. So far there was no indication that his infection was linked to a case from India. While the vast majority of New Zealand front line workers have had at least one dose of vaccine, this worker had not.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told the AM show that 100% of the Defense Force border guards had been vaccinated and that the police and aviation security staff were about 95%. But he said staff contracted to isolated isolated facilities, such as the Thursday workshop, which was a security guard were taking more time. This is a time-consuming process, he said.
New Zealand has registered 23 new positive coronavirus cases at its border facilities as of Thursday, of which 17 were from India. India is battling a huge wave of coronavirus infections, despite carrying out a record number of vaccinations. This week it reported 115,000 fresh infections in 24 hours, the highest total of just one day anywhere in the world.
Ardern said Friday that more than 60 passengers coming to the country from India had tested positive over the past two weeks. If that number of people from any country would come up with Covid that would give us a reason to stop and see mitigation to reduce that risk, so this is not country specific, this is about the cases that are we currently see from that region, she said.
This is the first time New Zealand has closed the border for the return of citizens from any nation during the pandemic.
It’s too shocking, to be honest, said Mandeep Bela, of the Indian Workers’ Association. Ever since Covid started, we have been told that New Zealand cannot close its borders to its citizens, no matter where they are, how many times they can not stop them from returning to the country. He said the move meant New Zealand citizens in India had been left stateless.
Bela also raised concerns that secession from India could provoke a racist reaction or stigmatize New Zealand of Indian origin. Many people have that fear of being targeted, Bela said.
Kaushal shared these concerns and said he had already seen racist comments being made. His look already started on social media streams, listening to talkback radio, he said. We are Kiwi. Will we always be treated as second class citizens?
Kaushal also noted the high human cost for hundreds of New Zealanders who could be stranded in India. People will not go to India now for a vacation, he said. I myself lost my father on the first day of the blockade last year. I have not been able to return for his one-year-old memorial. He said another friend had traveled to India to perform the final rites for her mother it was now unclear when she would be able to return.
I think no one will agree that we need to protect our borders and we are one of the luckiest countries in the world, he said, but added that the focus should be on continuously strengthening Managed Isolation and Quarantine [MIQ] system, or improving pre-launch measures.
Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman wrote on Twitter that she was calling the decision as a spokesperson for ethnic communities.
Surprisingly we did not go with a complete ban as an option for entry into the US or the UK, given their disturbing rates in Covid. Our ethnic communities of South Asian descent need to recognize race is not a factor in managing our Covid risk.
I’m really … uncomfortable with this travel ban, wrote on Twitter Dr. Jin Russell, a PhD candidate in epidemiology. These are New Zealanders trying to get home. They deserve access to health care here too and are at high risk of contracting covidium. If our MIQ and airport procedures and vaccination rates are up to scratch, can we contain this?
Others questioned the legal status of the suspension, given New Zealand’s bill of rights guaranteeing freedom of movement, including the right of its citizens to enter the country.
New Zealand has the right to return to New Zealand The NZ Council for Civil Liberties said. While acknowledging that practical practices of managing an infectious disease may justify a restriction on this right, we also question whether the government has made sufficient efforts to avoid taking this step.
They also questioned secession from India. We were sure that they were not the only ones who felt uncomfortable about these measures being implemented differently depending on where the people come from.
Public law expert Andrew Geddis, in analysis for The Spinoff, said that while the measures restricted the rights of New Zealand, ministers had no discretion to do so, but only if it is a demonstratively justified restriction on the rights of peoples.
The fact that the government is now prepared to face the possible emotional reactions involved in the return of citizens from the country border suggests to me that the issues can really turn out pretty awful and so a temporary deprivation of the right to enter it is justified, he said.
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