For nearly two months now, fully vaccinated Indians can travel to the United States, the United Kingdom, most of Europe and other parts of the world without having to quarantine.

In fact the Centre for Disease Control & Prevention already rates India as a low risk country. In its advisory dated 15 November, the US body says that fully vaccinated people travelling to India are at a low risk of contracting the virus and developing severe symptoms.

But New Zealand continues to include India in the ‘very high-risk countries’ list. It is interesting that several western countries that are seeing resurgent numbers are not included in New Zealand’s ‘very high risk countries’ list as India is.

This is despite it's own Ministry of Health conclusion in July that India did not need to be included in the "very high risk" category. 

The New Zealand government introduced a new category of a ‘very high-risk country’ which included India, Brazil, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea to further bolster the country's defence against Covid-19 on 23 April 2021. And on 11 August, Indonesia and Fiji were also designated as ‘very high-risk’ and added to the list.

April was when the second wave of Covid-19 had swept India and the country saw a very high number of cases as well as deaths. However, that has become a thing of the past as currently, the number of cases in India are very low especially due to the country surpassing a billion doses.

According to the latest data, 1.14 billion doses of vaccine have been administered and 383 million people are fully vaccinated, with that number rising by leaps and bounds every single day.

Covid-19 continues to slow down in India. Even during the peak festival season in September and October, which includes Durga Puja and Diwali where large groups of Indians gather to celebrate and visit one another’s homes, there was no surge in numbers.

Due to India being classed a ‘very high-risk’ country, only New Zealand citizens and their immediate families can travel to New Zealand from India and all others including NZ residents and Permanent Residents have to spend 14 days in a green zone country before travelling to New Zealand, adding tremendously to the cost and time of travel.

Safe for Black Caps to play in India

At this point in time, the Black Caps are playing a cricket series in India where games are played  amidst tens of thousands of spectators. The daily case numbers count for instance in New Delhi at this time is nearly five times lower than Auckland’s.

If the Black Caps can play in India, Indians can travel near-normally to the rest of the world then why do New Zealand PR holders required to isolate themselves in a third “green zone” country before arriving here and then further quarantining for the stipulated number of days?

Indian Weekender has been following up with the NZ Ministry of Health over the past couple of weeks asking why India continues to be under the very high risk countries list. But the ministry has only responded saying that the decision is in review.

At the time of writing, the office of Chris Hipkins, Minister for Covid-19 Response, maintained that the Government is coming up to another review for those countries soon. The last review was toward the beginning of the August outbreak and the next one is due and there could well be changes there as a result of the situation of those countries now.

Meanwhile, Indian Weekender spoke to MPs of leading political parties to find out why New Zealand continued to include India in the ‘very high-risk countries’ category.

Ricardo March, MP and Immigration spokesperson of Green Party:

Our border settings should be based on public health advice, not racialised political decisions. We know that split migrant families from India have been adversely affected by the continuous status of the country as high-risk. We want to see a review of these settings so that they are informed by public health advice and prioritises the needs of families, and particularly children who have been away from their parents for over a year now. We closed our borders to keep Covid-19 out, not migrants.

With proper investment into MIQ facilities and a public health approach to our border settings, we can ensure that families can be reunited and people offshore can be safely brought back without compromising our response to Covid-19. The Green Party supports a trial of prioritisation of MIQ places for four months so that people who urgently need to come home can do so. This should include humanitarian issues such as split families and those who have longstanding ties to the country who were stuck offshore

Erica Stanford, MP and Immigration spokesperson, National Party:

National supported the establishment of a ‘high-risk countries’ list to reduce the likelihood of Covid-19 from entering New Zealand. However, many other countries have removed these lists and the New Zealand Government should review this list also. It is hard to understand the Government hasn’t reassessed the situation, given officials have concluded there is no longer an elevated risk.

David Seymour, ACT Party leader

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) rates India as a low-risk country, it is definitely time for the New Zealand Government to explain why we are treating India as a high-risk country when the US Government treats India as low risk.