Last Thursday (8 Apr), New Zealand decided to ban all flights from India to New Zealand. The move came after 17 out of 23 new COVID-19 cases were attributed to travellers entering New Zealand from India.
The suspension took place starting from Sunday (11 Apr) to the end of the month (28 Apr).
New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern said while the temporary ban is for India, the decision behind it is not country-specific. “New Zealand is not immune to the virus, especially with a pandemic raging outside our borders,” she said.
She added that the temporary suspension of travel from India was to protect both New Zealand and the travellers themselves. She said she recognised the difficulty the suspension will cause for some citizens attempting to return home.
In response, the Indian community in New Zealand has questioned the New Zealand government’s decision.
“The question of ‘Why India?’ must be asked, and a clear answer should be given,” said Sunil Kaushal, president of the Waitakere Indian Association. He asked why the ruling applied only to India, when other nations including the United States, Brazil, France and the UK had also experienced soaring infection rates, especially when compared on per-capita basis.
“We don’t feel like a part of the ‘team of 5 million’ when Indians are singled out like this,” Kaushal said.
“It’s quite shocking, to be honest,” said Mandeep Bela, of the Indian Workers Association. “Since Covid started, we were told that New Zealand cannot shut its borders to its citizens, regardless of where they are, how many cases there are – they cannot stop them coming back to the country.”
Bela also raised concerns that the singling out of India could prompt a racist backlash. Kaushal shared those concerns, and said he had already observed racist comments being made. “It’s already started – look at the social media streams, listen to talkback radio,” he said.
Ms Ardern on Friday (9 Apr) further noted that more than 60 passengers coming into New Zealand from India had tested positive over the past two weeks. “If that number of people from any country were coming in with Covid that would give us cause to pause and look at mitigation to reduce that risk, so this is not country-specific, this is about the cases we are seeing currently from that region,” she explained.
India is battling a huge wave of coronavirus infections, hitting highest single-day total anywhere in the world currently.
268 imported cases in 11 days
Meanwhile, Singapore continues to open its borders despite having large number of imported COVID-19 cases. Looking at the data provided from Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH), there have been a total of 268 imported cases in the 11 days from 1 Apr this month.
Of the 268 imported cases into Singapore, the largest number came from Indian nationals. Bangladeshi came in second while Indonesians third.
The following is a breakdown of the number of imported cases by nationalities from 1 Apr to 11 Apr this month:
- Indian – 82
- Bangladeshi -66
- Indonesian – 29
- Filipino – 16
- Burmese – 9
- Malaysian – 6
- French – 3
- British -2
- American – 2
- Canadian – 2
- Ukrainian – 2
- PNG – 2
- Brazilian – 1
- Serbian – 1
- Japanese – 1
- Chinese – 1
As for the locals among the imported cases:
- Singaporean – 16
- Permanent Residents (PR) – 27
MOH did not breakdown the nationalities of PR who were infected with COVID-19 coming back to Singapore but of the 27, 19 has travelled from India to Singapore.