Fearing racism and stigma, community leaders in New Zealand have criticized the government’s decision to temporarily close the border to people travelling from India because of increasing COVID-19 cases.
The New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, on Thursday, announced that New Zealand would temporarily suspend entry for all travellers from India, including its own citizens, for two weeks from 11 April after recording a high number of positive COVID-19 cases from the country arriving at the border.
According to The Guardian, New Zealand has recorded 23 new positive coronavirus cases at its border facilities, as of Thursday, of which 17 were from India. Ardern, as per the report, said that more than 60 passengers coming into the country from India had tested positive over the past two weeks. “If that number of people from any country were coming in with COVID-19 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 said.
Sunil Kaushal, president of Waitakere Indian Association, questioned “Why India?” He pointed out that other nations including the United Kingdom, Brazil, France and the United States had also recorded soaring COVID-19 infection rates. “Why does the ruling only apply to India?” he asked. “We don’t feel like a part of the team of five million when Indians are singled out like this.”
Mandeep Bela, of the Indian Workers Association, described the government’s move as “shocking”. “Since COVID-19 started, we were told that New Zealand cannot shut its borders to its citizens, regardless of where they are, how many cases there are,” he said. “They cannot stop them from coming back to the country.” Bela said that the move means New Zealand citizens in India had been left “stateless”.
Kashual highlighted that this has already become a racist issue. “It has already started. Look at the social media streams, listen to talkback radio,” he said. “We are Kiwis. Will we always be treated as second-class citizens?”
Golriz Ghahraman, Green party MP, tweeted that she was calling out the ruling as ethnic communities spokesperson. “Weird we didn’t go with an all ban as an option for US or UK entries, given their harrowing rates on COVID-19. Our ethnic communities of South Asian origin need to know race isn’t a factor in our COVID risk management.”