Auckland, April 13, 2021
The Covid-19 epidemic continues to have dramatically bad impacts around the world.
After the United States, the UK and Europe were swept with the first wave of the virus, further variants and new waves of the epidemic have infected people worldwide, causing almost three million deaths and hundreds of millions infected and debilitated by the disease.
Brazil is the new epicentre, with over 300,000 deaths and hospital systems overwhelmed. Sadly, India is also suffering a surge of new cases with some forecasts predicting that new daily cases will run into the hundreds of thousands.
Last week, the New Zealand government took the unprecedented step of suspending travel from India of New Zealanders returning home. I am sure that it was a decision not taken lightly. It is a right under our Bill of Rights Act for any New Zealander anywhere to return home, unless the purpose of suspending the right is to protect lives.
Travel has been suspended for a fortnight until April 28, affecting the plans of more than 600 New Zealanders wanting to come back.
The reason given by the government is genuine; since February 2020, more than 70% of the Covid-19 cases from New Zealanders in quarantine were contracted in India, with 17 out of 19 people on April 8, 2021, just after the government made the decision, coming from India.
Both epidemiologists and human rights advocates have acknowledged the need and justification for suspending travel. However, our thoughts go out to those who are being affected by it.
We all hope that the suspension is short term, either because conditions in India improve or as a result of new procedures to reduce infections here or abroad.
New Zealanders are fortunate
What it reminds us is how fortunate we are in New Zealand not to have suffered mass deaths, not to have had our hospital system overwhelmed and to have successfully contained each outbreak of the virus in the community.
With the exception of our borders being closed and relatively short periods of lockdown, we have by and large been able to go about our lives normally.
However, we need to continue to follow the rules which have stopped the spread of the virus so far. We also need the vaccine to be rolled out as quickly as it can be and for all of us to get vaccinated to protect ourselves, our families and the community.
Please visit www.covid19.govt.nz for more information about the vaccine, and to find out when it is your turn to be vaccinated.
Phil Goff is Mayor of Auckland. He writes a regular Column in Indian Newslink.
Editor’s Note: Reacting to the decision of the New Zealand government, Arindam Bagchi, Spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India said in a Statement: “New Zealand has for the first time imposed a temporary ban on travellers coming from India, including its citizens, from April 11 to 28, 2021 due to a surge in Covid-19 cases among visitors to this country, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday, April 8, 2021. The travel restriction comes after New Zealand recorded 23 new positive coronavirus cases in managed isolation on Thursday, of which 17 came from India. India hopes that normal movement is restored after the ban is removed.