The sense of outrage and the feeling of unfairness behind the government’s abrupt decision of temporary suspension of flights from India is continuing unabated.“I find this decision a bit abrupt and shocking,” says Navtej Randhawa of Radio Spice and a prominent community leader based in South Auckland.

“We are not confident if the government has explored all other options of managing the risk before taking this knee-jerk decision,” Navtej said.

“Do you know of any such risk mitigation measures that the government has considered before stopping flights from India,” Navtej asked exasperatingly.

“Prime Minister had been saying all this time that they will not leave any Kiwi stateless – except of course if you are a Kiwi-Indian.”

“Tell me how else you will define this if this is not an unfair targeting of a particular community,” Navtej said.

Expressing similar dissent and shock, Vai Ravindran of Auckland Tamil Association told the Indian Weekender that it is saddening to see that only flights from India are unfairly targeted with this suspension.

“The scaremongering around imported cases of Covid-19 on flights from India is not altogether new. “We were seeing a lot of mainstream media reporting last year around a high number of cases reported in some flights from India,” Vai Ravindran asks.

It is important to note that around September last year, there were incessant reporting around the seemingly high number of covid cases arriving on flights from India.

However, an Indian Weekender story had then revealed on the basis of data received from the Ministry of Health that the total number of imported cases arriving on flights from India was a distant third behind the UK and the US.

“I don’t know of any community transmission case in NZ linked to a traveller returning from India. So why this unfair targeting,” Vai asked.  

What does data say about the risk posed by India?

Prime Minister and other government Minister are suddenly seen quoting data from the Ministry of Health, which points towards a dramatic surge in the number of imported cases arriving from India.

Prime Minister told Radio NZ this morning that over the last two weeks, over 60 passengers coming into the country from India have tested positive for Covid-19.

“There were 90 active cases in managed isolation, so as a proportion of that total number, the Indian cases were relatively high,” she added.

However, this is an incomplete assessment of the data received from the same Ministry of Health, which says that the total number of Covid cases imported on flights from India was second (245) behind the United Kingdom (296) and is closely followed by the United States (201).

2. The top ten countries of departure for New Zealand’s imported cases

986 of the 1339 imported cases are from 10 countries.

Countries where the most New Zealand COVID-19 Cases have travelled from

Country

Cases

United Kingdom

296

India

245

United States of America

201

Russia

51

Australia

35

Pakistan

34

 

 

The above data is from the Ministry of Health NZ

Diving more into data, an Auckland University of Technology scholar has questioned the government narrative of identifying India as a significant risk justifying a knee-jerk travel ban.

Senior Lecturer Rahul Sen forayed the data provided by Coronavirus Resource Centre at the John Hopkins University – the world leading institution that is collating data on responses of individual countries and is surprised to see that India does not fair any differently than countries such as UK and the US in terms of Covid risk they pose to other countries.

“Based on Worldometers Coronavirus Data that tracks Covid numbers daily on a global basis on several parameters, it is notable that in terms of total cases/million as of today, USA is 95,392 as of today followed by UK at 64118. Brazil is 62167, while for India it is 9391,” Rahul said.

“In terms of ranking on the above parameter India ranks 126th out of 221 countries while US ranks 8th and UK 38th.”

Rahul Sen is Senior Lecturer at Auckland University of Technology 

“So essentially the benchmark of high-risk categorization only on basis of total cases appears flawed. Clearly on a relative basis, there is no justification to only single out one country only for the travel ban.” Rahul asserted.

“On another note, India has been marching ahead on the parameters of vaccinating its population and preparing hard for a post-Covid pandemic world, if there is one at all,” Rahul said.

“India have 11 million fully vaccinated people as compared to 5.7 million in UK and 5.3 million in Brazil.”

“So, India represents much lower global risk on a million population basis compared to US, Brazil or UK and also lower in terms of people fully vaccinated,” Rahul asserted.