Community leaders say suspension of flights from India not racist

National Party agrees: Extraordinary circumstances justify extraordinary measures

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni at a media briefing in Ponsonby, Auckland on April 9, 2021

Venkat Raman
Wellington, April 9, 2021

A large number of community leaders have expressed their support to the government’s decision to place a temporary ban on flights from India.

And contrary to some reports, National Party, the main Opposition, has not ‘slammed’ the decision of the government to ban incoming flights from India for 17 days, subject to review thereafter.

As reported by Indian Newslink yesterday (April 8, 2021), Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that in view of the rising incidence of Covid-19 in India and the rising number of people arriving from India diagnosed Covid-19 positive, flights coming from India are being suspended from 4 pm on Sunday, April 11, 2021 to midnight on Wednesday, April 28, 2021.

She said that out of 90 Covid-19 cases currently in Managed Isolation Quarantine (MIQ), 60 are from India, a ‘very high rate needing swift action.’

The government will assess the risks involved during this period and perhaps put in place additional measures to protect the health and safety of New Zealanders and arriving passengers, she said.

Earlier today, Emirates announced that it was suspending flights from India from today (April 9, 2021) but a Spokesperson said that the restriction will not affect passengers travelling from New Zealand to India.

Extraordinary circumstances

National Party Covid-19 Response Spokesperson Chris Bishop said that the decision to ban incoming flights from India was regrettable but agreed that it is the right move.

“Extraordinary circumstances justify extraordinary measures. It is not something that we would want to happen in the long-term obviously, but for a short period of time, a temporary suspension, I think just in light of the large number of cases coming from India, it is the right thing to do,” he said in a Statement.

Ms Ardern said that it is important to know if and how the number of infectious cases from India can drop.

“It may be that there are simply no other practical ways to reduce the risk but we want to exhaust every option because it not only keeps those who are travelling safer, but of course, reducing the risk in our managed isolation facilities,” she said.

Indian Envoy’s comments

Muktesh Pardeshi, High Commissioner of India

India’s High Commissioner Muktesh Pardeshi hoped that this ‘extraordinary measure will be temporary and restrictions will be lifted after April 28 in view of the strong people-to-people links between the two countries.

“In our view, normal travel from India to New Zealand is, in any case, restricted and regulated in terms of visa requirement and assured place in MIQ facilities,” he said.

Mr Pardeshi said that he was ‘informally contacted,’ by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade before the announcement was made by Ms Ardern.

Community Leaders say ‘not discriminatory’

Most Indian Newslink readers have expressed their approval of the government’s decision, saying that New Zealanders have worked hard, made sacrifices and complied with Covid-19 rules and regulations to prevent community spread.

“The suspension of flights from India should be seen as a necessary, temporary measure. We have been worried over the increasing number of people from India diagnosed as Covid-19 positive in the past week or so. It is better in the interests of everyone, certainly in the interests of people travelling from India to understand the reason behind the temporary ban. Covid-19 is a tricky disease and it is better to be safe than sorry,” they said.

Community leaders have also expressed their solidarity with the government, rejecting the view that the move is ‘racist.’

Narendra Bhana

Narendra Bhana

Auckland Indian Association Immediate Past President Narendra Bhana said that he was ‘comfortable’ with the decision of the New Zealand government.

“Instead of spreading false information of racism and accusations, we should understand as to why this decision has been taken. We are in touch with families and friends explaining the situation and they understand,” he said.

Veer Khar

Veer Khar

Indian Association Manukau New Zealand Immediate Past President Veer Khar agreed, saying that there was no discrimination in the decision.

“The temporary suspension of flights will affect not only people of Indian origin but everyone else who is currently in India. I am sure that there are people of other nationalities from New Zealand who may be visiting India on business or work. They would also have to wait until the ban is lifted on April 28, 2021. I do not see any discrimination here,” he said.

Dr Pushpa Wood

Dr Pushpa Wood

GOPIO International Wellington President and India New Zealand Business Council Wellington Chapter Head Dr Pushpa Wood said that comments should be based on facts.

Stating that India is her motherland, she said that she has been listening to some comments.

“Yes, United Kingdom and United States of America and some other countries also have high cases of infection, but they are not arriving in these big numbers at our border as they are from India. Obviously, the processes introduced earlier for high risks countries seem to be working in UK, USA and other countries but for some reason, this does not seem to be working in India. So, naturally, India will come under a spotlight,” she said.

Indian Newslink will carry an independent article from Dr Wood shortly.

Daljit Singh

Daljit Singh

Supreme Sikh Society of New Zealand Spokesperson Daljit Singh said his organisation strongly supports the New Zealand government, saying that the decision was not ‘racially motivated or discriminating the Indian community.’

“The Supreme Sikh Society of New Zealand believes that foremost priority must be given to the safety and wellbeing of one’s own home, only then, we will have a safer Kiwi society and a safer country under the current challenging Covid-19 dangers.

“We are also concerned about people of Indian origin stranded in India and will continue to exercise efforts to ensure their safe and fast return to New Zealand,” he said.

Implications for Australia and South Pacific

The decision of the New Zealand government to halt the return of New Zealand citizens and Permanent Residents is of course extraordinary but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was left with no other alternative. With quarantine-free travel to and from Australia set to begin on April 19, 2021 and with the possibilities of a similar facility with many Pacific Island countries becoming a possibility, Wellington has to manage its Covid-19 response efficiently.

The suspension of flights is only from India. New Zealanders or people holding Indian passports, keen on visiting India or returning to their home country can do so even now. Similarly, people of Indian origin who are New Zealand citizens or permanent residents can return to New Zealand from most other countries.

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