Preventing Australian citizens coming home from India on the basis of Covid cases makes no sense.
The penalties applied – jail terms of up to five years and fines of up to $66,000, for anyone who has visited India within 14 days of arriving in Australia – are harsh, to say the least.
Yes, India is in its second wave, and yes, new cases are still climbing but 114 countries have higher per capita numbers of people infected than India. Those numbers may be understated, granted, but the USA currently has twice as many active cases as India with just a quarter of its population. Regular flights are operating US to Aust for up to 1,000 arrivals/state/week. So why single out India for a ban on repatriation?
Cases per 1 million population:
|Sweden, Israel, Estonia, Lithuania and others||90,000+|
India’s health system is currently overwhelmed by the pandemic and needs to vaccinate its vast population of 1.35 billion people but that should not mean Australians wanting to come home from India pose a greater risk than those returning from say the UK or the USA.
As well as bringing our citizens home, Australia, the luckiest of all countries, should be assisting nations most badly affected by this pandemic – poor countries with fewer health resources and economic capacity.
The World Bank says 100 million extra people could be pushed into extreme poverty because of Covid. Crucial immunisation programs for other diseases have been scaled back while the world focuses on producing Covid vaccines putting the lives of millions of children at risk.
African nations have a combined population of similar size to India but with a quarter the number of doctors. India suspended its exports of vaccines to Africa in March to focus on its own distribution. Africa will be in dire straits if Covid vaccinations are not rolled out so international aid will be essential to prevent outbreaks.
Australia is giving a one-off Covid ‘supplement’ of around $300 million over 3 years to Timor Leste, the Pacific and South east Asia. However, successive governments have progressively decreased Official Development Assistance (overseas aid), relative to our Gross National Income, since the 1970s. The most savage cuts were in 1914-15 under Tony Abbott. The Morrison Government froze funding and cut $44 million from its 2020-21 aid budget.
Meanwhile, our defence spending will sky-rocket from an all-time high of $42 billion in 2020-21 to a planned $73.7 billion in 2025-26 – spending that continues to focus our ADF on fighting alongside the US in far flung wars. (See here for our alternative, Self-reliant Self-defence plan.)
The Prime Minister believes in miracles but this problem will only be solved by leadership, generosity and global cooperation.